Akamai Research & Development Projects

Akamai engages in a range of projects that support our overall goal of building a diverse, local workforce in Hawaii and advancing college students from Hawaii into the STEM workforce. We engage in these efforts to improve existing products or procedures as well as to create new ones (see examples below). These projects are part of the overall ISEE R&D portfolio.

Note that the projects and products described below are undergoing continued development and likely to be revised. Be sure to check back for updates!


This strand of R&D work supports the ongoing development of the ISSE-Akamai Mentor Program. Central to our mentor program is the concept of a “Productive Project,” meaning an internship experience that (1) makes a valued contribution to the host institution while (2) also supporting the persistence of an intern in a science or technology career path.

Akamai internship projects tend to fall into one of two broad categories: focused on solving an engineering problem or answering a scientific question. Regardless of category, Akamai staff identified a need to support both interns and mentors in understanding the key components of these projects. With that goal in mind, we developed the following two tools:

  • The Clarifying Your Science Project worksheet guides interns and mentors in describing the key components of a project that is focused on answering a scientific question. This tool is based on the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning framework that has evolved from a body of K-12 science education research (see for example, McNeill & Krajcik, 2008; McNeill, Lizotte, & Krajcik, 2006; McNeill & Marin, 2011).
  • The Clarifying Your Engineering Project worksheet guides interns and mentors in describing the key components of a project that is focused on coming up with a solution to an engineering problem. This worksheet is based on the Solution Articulation Framework that has evolved from a body research conducted by ISEE/Akamai staff.

Years of anecdotal evidence from Akamai staff pointed to a common challenge for interns engaged in real world engineering projects: they struggle with supporting solutions to a problem by making meaningful connections to “requirements.” UCSC doctoral student Nina Arnberg worked with Jerome Shaw and Lisa Hunter to deeply investigate this challenge. Through her research, Nina identified three main challenges faced by interns: (a) identifying constraints as requirements, (b) identifying nonfunctional requirements as functional requirements, and (c) not stating functional requirements in a verifiable manner. These findings continue to inform multiple aspects of the ISEE-Akamai Mentor Program, including refinement of the Clarifying Your Engineering Project worksheet (see previous tab) and the ways in which Akamai staff coach interns doing their projects and mentors during the workshop.

Arnberg, N. (2014). Supporting the articulation of engineering solutions: An operational definition of engineering requirements. (Doctoral dissertation Chapter 3, University of California, Santa Cruz).

Part of Akamai’s basic philosophy is that internship projects can be designed and facilitated so that the overall experience (1) makes a valued contribution to the host institution, and (2) supports the persistence of the intern in a science or technology career. To help mentors create such projects, we have developed a “Project Plan” template, key components of which are “Design Elements” (pre-planned activities and structures) and “Facilitation Moves” (on-the-fly actions). The overall plan is tied to ISEE’s Themes of Inquiry – particularly STEM Practices, Equity & Inclusion – especially STEM identity, and Assessment – focused on promoting learning. Akamai staff members offer a workshop in which they support mentors in creating their own Project Plans.

Arnberg, N. (2014). Supporting the articulation of engineering solutions: An operational definition of engineering requirements. (Doctoral dissertation Chapter 3, University of California, Santa Cruz).


Background: Engineers solve problems and justify their solutions. Argumentation is the means by which engineers rationally solve problems. Engaging in argumentative practices promotes content knowledge and communication skills in many disciplines but has not been explored deeply in the engineering education literature. We focused our attention on improving learners’ engineering argumentation practices with a particular emphasis on articulation of engineering solutions.

Purpose: The goals of this research were to clarify our preliminary conceptualization of engineering argumentation by (1) operationally defining a key component in the articulation of engineering solutions: requirements, and (2) providing engineering educators and mentors with suggestions for practical implications to improve learners’ articulation of engineering solutions.

Method: Collected data from self-reported answers from learners (interns) and from their final presentations were analyzed using the constant comparative method. We focused on one critical content component, requirements, for the rest of the study as we found it to be central and challenging to the articulation of an engineering solution.

Results: We identified three key challenges faced by interns when articulating project requirements. Interns identified constraints as requirements, identified non-functional requirements as functional requirements, and did not state functional requirements in a verifiable manner. To address these challenges, we propose an operational definition of requirements in engineering that has three components: functional requirements (what a solution must do), non-functional requirements (qualities that a solution must have), and constraints (limitations on possible solutions). Of the three, functional requirements are most relevant because a viable solution must meet all functional requirements. Furthermore, functional requirements must (1) be relevant to the problem/need (2) focus on what the solution must do or accomplish (actions a solution must take) and (3) be verifiable, stated in a manner where action is completed or not completed.

Conclusion: We argue that identifying an engineering project’s functional requirements is critical to effectively articulating a proposed engineering solution. Our operational definition of requirements, specifically the description and examples of functional requirements, may be used by engineering educators and mentors to support learners’ and interns’ articulation of solutions. We also offer a number of suggestions for implementing these ideas.

McNeil, K. L., Lizotte, D. J., & Krajcik, J. (2006). Supporting students’ construction of scientific explanations by fading scaffolds in instructional materials. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(2), 153-191.


The purpose of this study was to determine whether providing students with continuous written instructional support or fading written instructional support (scaffolds) better prepares students to construct scientific explanations when they are no longer provided with support. This article investigated the influence of scaffolding on 331 seventh-grade students’ writing of scientific explanations during an 8-week, project- based chemistry unit in which the construction of scientific explanations is a key learning goal. The unit makes an instructional model for explanation explicit to students through a focal lesson and reinforces that model through subsequent written support for each investigation. Students received 1 of 2 treatments in terms of the type of written support: continuous, involving detailed support for every investigation, or faded, involving less support over time. The analyses showed significant learning gains for students for all components of scientific explanation (i.e., claim, evidence, and reasoning). However, on posttest items lacking scaffolds, the faded group gave stronger explanations in terms of their reasoning compared to the continuous group. Fading written scaffolds better equipped students to write explanations when they were not provided with support.

McNeill, K. L., & Krajcik, J. (2008). Inquiry and scientific explanations: Helping students use evidence and reasoning. In J. Luft, R. L. Bell, & J Gess-Newsome (Eds.), Science as inquiry in the secondary setting (pp. 121-134). Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.

No abstract. Available from National Science Teachers Association – nsta.org/publications

McNeill, K. L., & Martin, D. M. (2011). Claims, evidence, and reasoning. Science and Children, April/May, 52-56.

No abstract. Available from National Science Teachers Association – nsta.org/publications

For further information contact Akamai Associate Director for R&D: Jerome Shaw