Merredith Portsmore

Merredith Portsmore

200 Boston Avenue, Suite G810
Medford, MA
Research/Areas of Interest:

My research interests focus on how K-12 students engage in learning engineering (learning to design solutions to ill-defined problems). I am particularly interested in (1) how children engage in planning for engineering design problems, (2) children's use and development of representations in engineering design planning, (3) children's development of engineering design process skills through sustained engagement in engineering education, and (4) exploring the role of the engineering design project in children's science learning.


PhD Engineering Education, Tufts University 2010
MA Education, Tufts University 1999
BS Mechanical Engineering, Tufts University 1998
BA English, Tufts University 1998


Merredith earned both a BS in Mechanical Engineering and BA in English from Tufts University in 1998. Merredith has also received her MA in Education from Tufts University in 1999. She completed her PhD in Engineering Education in 2010. She currently resides in Chelmsford, MA with her husband Dan and sons Austin and Connor.

CEEO Responsibilities

Merredith is the Director for the CEEO. She is responsible for the day to day operation of the Center along with strategic goal setting and mission related outreach.

K-12 engineering education in the United States has gained significant momentum in the past 10 years as engineering-based curriculum projects, web sites and professional development have emerged across the country. Engineering education in the U.S is slowly changing from a way to increase enrollment in engineering at the college level to a movement that advocates including engineering content and methods for all students as a means to help students understand the designed world, provide students with a methodology for solving ill-defined problems, and as a context for integrating science and mathematics learning. Professional engineers use the steps of the engineering design process to help organize their thinking and actions to move from an ill-defined problem through research, brainstorming, planning, prototyping, testing, and redesign to a final designed solution. At the core of the majority of K-12 engineering education initiatives is the idea of bringing the engineering design process into the classroom.

Just as design is fundamental to the domain of engineering, I believe that a deep and detailed knowledge of how children engage in engineering design problems and develop their understandings of engineering design process is essential to the successful advancement of engineering education in K-12. In many instances, the engineering design process that professionals use has been directly transposed into a K-12 settings with the assumption that children will be able to work through the steps in much the same way as adults. However, my own dissertation work, as well as that of several other researchers, has found that children do not engage in certain steps of the design process, like planning, in the same way as adult engineers. Hence, my overarching goal as a researcher is to improve engineering education by supporting the development of curriculum and the practice of teaching through research that focuses on how students engage in engineering design projects and how they develop skills and understanding related to the engineering design process.

Selected Publications and Presentations


Brophy, S., Klein, S., Portsmore, M., & Rogers, C. (2008). Advancing engineering education in P-12 classrooms. Journal of Engineering Education, 97(3), 369-387. [PDF]

Carberry, A., Portsmore, M., & Rogers, C. (2007). The effects of STOMP on student's understandings of and attitudes toward the engineering design process. Paper presented at the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, HI.

Cejka, E., Rogers, C., & Portsmore, M. (2006). Kindergarten robotics: Using robotics to motivate math, science, and engineering literacy in elementary school. International Journal of Engineering Education,22(4), 711-722.

Bers, M., & Portsmore, M. (2005). Teaching partnerships: Early childhood and engineering students teaching math and science through robotics. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14(1), 59-73.

Rogers, C., & Portsmore, M. (2004). Bringing engineering to elementary school. Journal of STEM Education, 5(3). [PDF]

Book Chapters

Portsmore, M. (2013). Exploring first grade students' drawing and artifact construction during an engineering design problem. In B. M. Brizuela & B. E. Gravel (Eds.), "Show me what you know" Exploring representations across STEM disciplines.: Teachers' College Press.

Wendell, K., Kendall, A., Portsmore, M., Wright, C., Jarvin, L., & Rogers, C. (2014). Embedding Elementary School Science Instruction In Engineering Design Problem Solving. In S. Purzer, M. Cardella & J. Strobel, (Eds.), Engineering in Pre-College Settings: Research into Practice.

Conference Proceedings

Swenson, J., Portsmore, M. D., & Danahy, E. (2014). Examining the Engineering Design Process of First-Year Engineering Students During a Hands-on, In-class Design Challenge. In Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Conference & Exposition. Indianapolis, Indiana. .

Portsmore, M., & Swenson, J. (2012). Systemic Intervention: Connecting Formal and Informal Education Experiences for Engaging Female Students in Elementary School in Engineering. Paper presented at the American Society for Engineering Education, San Antonio, TX.

Portsmore, M., Watkins, J., & McCormick, M. (2012). Planning, Drawing and Elementary School Students in an Integrated Engineering Design and Literacy Activity. Paper presented at the 2nd P-12 Engineering and Design Education Research Summit, Washington, DC.


Portsmore, M. (2010). Exploring How Experience with Planning Impacts First Grade Students' Planning and Solutions to Engineering Design Problem. Unpublished Dissertation, Tufts University.

Email me directly if you would like a copy.

Qualifying Paper

Portsmore, M., (2008) Exploring first grade students' planning an an engineering design problem and its relationships to artifact construction and success: A pilot study. Unpublished Qualifying Paper, Tufts University.