NSF awards $2 million to Summer Engineering Experience for Kids

Oct. 17, 2016

Alexandria, VA. A project sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Purdue University, and Virginia Tech has been awarded three grants totaling nearly $2 million from the National Science Foundation, to expand and enhance NSBE’s Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program. The three-year grants—including $1.08 million to NSBE, the largest federal grant in the Society’s history—are from the National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, the goal of which is to “build understandings of best practice factors, contexts, and processes contributing to K–12 students’ motivation and participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).” The SEEK program engages pre-college students, most of them in grades 3–5, in a three-week summer day program that offers hands-on, team-based engineering design projects led by collegiate mentor-teachers, many of whom are members of NSBE.

“This award from the National Science Foundation will enable NSBE to realize the vision we have had for SEEK since we founded the program in 2007,” said NSBE national chair Matthew C. Nelson. “SEEK can now make a resounding impact not only on communities underrepresented in engineering but also on the nation, by strengthening the pipeline to engineering careers and helping fill that pipeline with many more underrepresented minority and female students.”

“NSBE extends its sincere gratitude to the NSF, Purdue University, and Virginia Tech for this opportunity to increase the diversity of the engineering profession,” said NSBE executive director Karl W. Reid, Ed.D. “We look forward to the knowledge that will be gained from this project and to the positive results we will see for aspiring African-American, Latino, and women engineers.”

The NSBE-Purdue-Virginia Tech project, which began this past Sept. 1, is titled “Strengthening the STEM Pipeline for Elementary School African Americans, Hispanics, and Girls by Scaling Up Summer Engineering Experiences.” The partnership will use the grants to expand the SEEK program from 14 sites and 3,825 students in grades 3 through 5 in 2016 to 31 sites and 27,000 African-American, Hispanic, and female third through fifth graders across the U.S. by 2019. The project will measure the effectiveness of SEEK in improving the students’ STEM-related skills, attitudes, and knowledge; the relationship of those qualities to the students’ academic motivation; and the effect of organizational context factors on the students’ STEM experiences and outcomes.

Dr. Reid serves as principal investigator of the project, overseeing NSBE’s operation of the SEEK program and its management of the research project, chairing the project’s advisory committee and disseminating research findings. Co-principal investigators David Knight, Ph.D., and Walter Lee, Ph.D., of Virginia Tech are spearheading research aspects of the project, including research design, data collection, and analysis, and co-principal investigator Monica Cardella, Ph.D., of Purdue leads and monitors research dissemination and serves as the project expert on pre-college engineering education.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the National Society of Black Engineers and Purdue University on this project,” said Dr. Knight, who is an assistant professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education. “The SEEK program can make a real impact for so many young students by opening their eyes to engineering as a potential future pathway. We are excited to work with our colleagues to investigate how this wonderful program can be scaled-up and sustained in other cities throughout the country during this project, so that even more students—particularly those underrepresented in the engineering field—can gain access.”

“This project represents the heart of pre-college engineering education and my commitment to pre-college engineering education research: access to high-quality pre-college engineering experiences for all learners,” said Dr. Cardella, who is an associate professor of engineering education at Purdue and director of Purdue’s INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering. “It is an honor and a privilege to be able to collaborate with the National Society of Black Engineers and Virginia Tech on this project, which expands access to pre-college engineering for African-American, Hispanic, and female students while also providing insights into successful programming.”

With more than 31,000 members and more than 300 chapters in the U.S. and abroad, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is one of the largest student-governed organizations based in the United States. NSBE, founded in 1975, supports and promotes the aspirations of collegiate and pre-collegiate students and technical professionals in engineering and technology.



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