Email Print Share

News Release 13-159

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

Professor Mihaela Sabin  with students at a table

Professor Mihaela Sabin teaches computing courses to students from the University of New Hampshire.

September 17, 2013

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

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.

Maine--Engineering innovative solutions to storm water problems through diverse community participation

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.

New Hampshire--Ecosystem computing challenge: Partnership model to build access to relevant computing education for underrepresented high school students

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.

The program will prepare teachers and students to help monitor, map and provide understanding of New Hampshire's natural ecosystems. Using data produced by the NH EPSCoR RII Track-1 Ecosystems & Society project, they will learn computational thinking and engage with more rigorous computing by developing their own mobile applications using App Inventor, a free and open source programming language and platform to create place-based and socially relevant applications. A partnership with UNH Cooperative Extension, which will engage computing professionals as volunteer mentors, makes it a model that can be replicated nationwide through the Cooperative Extension network.

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.

This project couples a need to train American Indian students, who are underrepresented in STEM fields, with an opportunity to create an introductory chemistry course sequence at NICC to be disseminated to other tribal colleges, including nearby Little Priest Tribal College. Students will learn how to connect topics of interest to the community by way of partnerships that involve community leaders, college faculty, college students and community outreach. The resulting materials and practices could be applicable to all educators seeking to increase participation of underrepresented STEM groups. The results of the methodology and assessment will lead to measurable outcomes that will be used to inform others through local outreach, publications in tribal college and science education literature and presentations.

Nevada--Cyber-learning activities to scaffold STEM practices (CLASSP)

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.

Research on video games has informed this approach, which combines a proven system for online inquiry with feedback. This system is being developed in concert with a community of practitioners within the existing Nevada Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP) network that addresses the college preparation of underrepresented populations. GEAR UP will help identify and CLASSP will target an audience of middle-school students from ethnically and racially diverse and economically disadvantaged communities. Through this partnership, the impact of the projects' cyber-learning methodology will be piloted online and in face-to-face interactions with students in the urban settings of Reno and Las Vegas. Next, the project will expand to meet the interests and needs of rural educators and students in remote areas of Nevada. With experimental cyber-learning methods and low technology requirements, CLASSP is capable of being integrated into the most rudimentary technology infrastructures. The lessons learned will inform teacher training and STEM education of diverse students.

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.

The project strengthens two existing programs: the See Blue STEM Camp, run during summer, and the See Blue STEM Club, offered throughout the academic year, by including the development of several hands-on activities such as crime scene investigation, model solar car design and construction, and robotics. The summer camps include not only students but their parents as well, engaged through social media (via Twitter and a blog) and nightly emails. This model of stimulating and sustaining student interest in STEM careers with hands-on STEM projects is portable across the nation.

About EPSCoR

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.


Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311, email:
Jenny Wells, University of Kentucky, email:
Evelyn Jones, NH EPSCoR, (603) 862-1804, email:
Margaret Nagle, University of Maine, (207) 581-3745, email:
Afsha Bawany, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, (702) 895-5515, email:
Meg Merchant Lauerman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, (402) 472-0088, email:

Program Contacts
Jeanne R. Small, NSF, (703) 292-7378, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

mail icon Get News Updates by Email 

Connect with us online
NSF website:
NSF News:
For News Media:
Awards database:

Follow us on social