NSF grants broaden participation in science and engineering across the nation
Nearly $4 million in new grants will pilot new methods for broadening the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields
The National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced funding for five projects aimed at broadening participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through regional improvements to education and human resources infrastructure. Each of the projects will receive up to $750,000 over a three- to five-year period in Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-3 Building Diverse Communities awards, as part of NSF's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).
Together, these RII Track-3 awards involve researchers from multiple institutions in five states and address important research challenges in broadening the STEM participation of women and girls, underrepresented minorities and persons in underserved rural areas. The projects involve students from middle school to early-career levels.
A brief description of the projects, as well as the lead principal investigator and institution for each of the five awards appears below.
Mohamad Musavi, University of Maine
This three-year project focuses on the problem of storm water pollution, which is a significant issue in Maine. It seeks to engage high school students in Maine, particularly females, Native Americans, African Americans and students from rural areas, in meaningful research and engineering education in the area of storm water management and environmental pollution mitigation. In this project, the high-school student participants will work alongside their teachers, University of Maine faculty and students, as well as with representatives from local communities and private, non-profit and governmental organizations. A five-day Storm Water Institute, offered annually at the University of Maine, will prepare the participants to work on participatory citizen science projects related to storm water management.
The team expects that hands-on experience on topics of societal relevance will heighten student interest in STEM education and careers. The model of empowering underrepresented minority students, teachers and communities by engaging them in environmentally relevant problems and engineering solutions is potentially transferable and scalable nationwide.
Mihaela Sabin, University of New Hampshire
This endeavor sets its sights higher than simply increasing computer literacy in high schools. It aims to include in the high-school curricula essential computing concepts and computational practices, set in the context of applications of interest to diverse learners. This project specifically engages women, underrepresented minorities, immigrants and low-income and first-generation college students. The majority of these students live in metropolitan areas with the largest minority groups and in rural communities with the highest poverty levels in the state.
Nebraska--Framing the chemistry curriculum
Mark A. Griep, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
This project aims to develop a sustainable two-semester chemistry course sequence at Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC), a tribal college. The course will include culturally-rich examples and real-life applications that have meaning and relevance to the American Indian community, such as water and wastewater treatment, Missouri River water quality, organic farming, alternative energy, ethnobotany, honey bee colony collapse disorder and Type 2 diabetes. These topics are being developed into case studies, the findings of which will be disseminated at faculty workshops and enrollment campaigns.
P.G. Schrader, Nevada System of Higher Education
How can innovative, cyber-enabled instructional methods transform STEM education and increase opportunities for underrepresented middle-school student populations? CLASSP addresses this question by developing, implementing and testing a cyber-learning methodology to elevate STEM learning opportunities and success for underrepresented minority and rural middle school students in Nevada.
Kentucky--Utilizing STEM camps and STEM clubs to increase interest in STEM fields among females and students of color
Christa D. Jackson, University of Kentucky Research Foundation
This project is a five-year joint effort among the colleges of Education, Arts and Sciences and Engineering at the University of Kentucky. The project focuses on examining the effect of informal STEM learning environments on students in grades five through eight, particularly females and students of color, by engaging them in hands-on activities provided through summer STEM camps and academic-year STEM clubs. All curricula and instructional materials will be made available online via Kentucky's public STEM education website so that they may be replicated, continually modified, and sustained beyond the life of the project.
EPSCoR is a program designed to fulfill NSF's mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide. Twenty-eight states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam are currently eligible to participate. Through this program, NSF establishes regional partnerships with government, higher education, and industry that effect lasting improvements in a state's or territory's research infrastructure and research and development capacity, and hence, its academic competitiveness.