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Brenda Capobianco Wins Inaugural Foster Award

Brenda Capobianco

The Christian J. Foster Award, named after the former first gentleman of Purdue, is awarded to one faculty member who has made transformational contributions to improving STEM teaching and learning in Indiana's K-12 schools.

The 2014 inaugural award winner is Brenda Capobianco, Associate Professor of Science Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. According to the selection committee, “there were many excellent choices” but Capobianco “clearly stood above the rest” and that members of the committee were “extremely impressed with her accomplishments and impact” referring to her outstanding contributions to STEM education in Indiana in both inservice and preservice teacher education.   

After hearing about the award, Capobianco stated, “I feel honored to be recognized for the Foster Award and I share this honor with the science teachers I work with and learn from every day. I am in the elementary schools each week observing science teachers invent new instructional strategies, answering teachers’ questions, and helping them reflect critically on their attempts at improving their instruction and students’ learning of STEM,” she said.

“I get to see in real time how science teachers purposefully make science an important part of their students’ lives and I see the challenges teachers experience on a daily basis,” she continued.

Since coming to Purdue in 2002, Capobianco has established productive lines of research, teaching, and engagement activities focused in STEM education. Her research is in two areas: science teachers’ engagement in action research and young women’s participation in STEM-related fields. In 2004, Capobianco received the Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and was later recognized as a University Faculty Scholar for the College of Education in 2010.

She has created graduate courses in action research and gender issues in science education and currently serving as a contributor to the College of Education’s Integrated STEM teacher education initiative. Capobianco has been awarded over $17 million in both external and internal grants as PI or Co-PI, including several large scale research grants funded by the National Science Foundation that emphasize the integration of engineering design in science education and science teacher education.

Her most notable contribution to improving K-12 STEM education in Indiana to date is co-directing Purdue University’s NSF-funded Targeted Math Science Partnership entitled the Science Learning through Engineering Design (SLED) Partnership. In 2010, the SLED Partnership was one of only three nationally funded MSPs that focused on the integration of engineering design in the elementary schools and remains to date the single largest NSF-funded MSP in the state of Indiana. SLED Partners include faculty from the Colleges of Education, Engineering, Science and Technology, Taylor Community School Corporation, Plymouth School Corporation, Lafayette School Corporation, and Tippecanoe School Corporation. The goal of the SLED Math Science Partnership is to increase grade 3-6 student learning of science by developing Indiana’s first integrated, engineering design-based approach to elementary/ intermediate school science education.

Brenda Capobianco publicly shares SLED curriculum and teacher resources for grades 3 through 6 at the STEMedhub website. There teachers will find numerous classroom–proven lesson plans designed by STEM faculty and SLED partners. See: 

Professor Capobianco will receive with the award a $2,500 prize and $15,000 in discretionary funds to support her ongoing work.