BPE-Track 3: Inclusive Mentoring Hub for Enabling Pathways from Inner-City and Rural Appalachian Households to Engineering in Kentucky and West Virginia

Grants and Contracts Details


Funding Agency: Proposal to NSF Broadening Participation in Engineering Program Title: BPE-Track 3: Inclusive mentoring hub to enable pathways for students from inner-city and rural Appalachian households to engineering in Kentucky and West Virginia PIs: Jimmy Fox, Gabe Dadi and Bill Ford, University of Kentucky Mindy Armstead, Marshall University Tyler Mahoney, University of Louisville Project Summary: Our mentoring network is a collaboration of schools spanning the urban to rural gradient in Kentucky and West Virginia and includes University of Louisville, Kentucky State University, University of Kentucky, Marshall University and West Virginia State University. The target populations of students underrepresented in STEM includes students classified as African American, Latino American, and students classified as being from rural Appalachian distressed communities. Adults from this Appalachian region have a meager 13% baccalaureate graduation rate and are well documented as underrepresented. We developed a program that include K-12, early undergraduate, late undergraduate and early graduate student program elements. The program goals are as follows. (1) Mentor a cohort of middle school and high school students who are classified as underrepresented in STEM and teach them about the likely unknown responsibilities and duty of civil and environmental engineers. (2) Encourage and scaffold first and second year undergraduate engineering students classified as underrepresented in STEM by teaching them a unique skillset, enhancing their curriculum, and introducing them to a supportive cohort of peers and faculty they may not know otherwise. (3) Retaining third and fourth year undergraduate students and first year graduate students classified as underrepresented in STEM by immersing them in a research experience aimed at testing hypotheses and learning skills in data management systems and sensor technology. (4) Building mentoring relationships that likely would not occur otherwise, including student-to-student, student-to-faculty, and faculty-to-faculty relationships, by purposefully bringing together people across urban to rural gradients and sub-disciplines of engineering that typically do not work so closely together. (5) Diversifying faculty-led graduate research programs by bridging together faculty members who likely will not work together otherwise, and in turn overcoming the limitation of lack of diversity among an individual faculty’s research program owing to the fact that faculty only work with one to five graduate students per year at these universities. Our goals will be accomplished by carrying out a cross-network mentoring program focused on teaching and research. The program will be 10 months in duration and carried out four times in years 2 to 5 of the project; and year 1 is a planning year. Key components of our program include: curriculum development via a two semester long three credit course aimed at undergraduate students early in their program that teaches unique hard and soft skills, and supports them via the mentoring network; a 10 month formal research experience for students late in their undergraduate curriculum or new graduate students; teaching middle school and high schools students about civil and environmental engineering through collaboration with the undergraduate and graduate students and faculty; encouraging high school students to enter engineering programs by connecting them with Project Lead the Way programs, inviting them to our university’s Undergraduate Research Showcase, inviting them field trips at construction and water research sites, and engaging them in research whenever possible; monthly mentoring program that brings people together both in person and virtually, as needed, to share research ideas and discuss overcoming obstacles; and outreach activities and field trips to government and engineering field sites to teach students about opportunities. The themes of the program are focused on (i) students gaining knowledge of their responsibilities as a successful engineer at any level and (ii) students building new skillsets needed for gaining a competitive edge as engineering practitioners and researchers. We focus on civil and environmental engineering responsibilities. The focus of civil design and construction will emphasize a need for operational excellence, and students will be taught they have a responsibility to optimize project costs but also keep workers safe. Students will learn about safety management systems and the design and application of data management systems that help optimize safety on sites. The focus of environmental engineering mitigation and stewardship will emphasize a need for optimizing both human and environmental factors in a project, and students will be taught they have a responsibility to maintain clean air, water and soil. Students will learn about water quality sensing, assessment, and mitigation to improve the health of streams and rivers. We focus on building student’s skills in data management systems and sensor technology. Data management systems are now a key component controlling the cyber infrastructure of our new and existing civil works. Students will learn how to produce, manipulate and apply data management programs, software and application through the lens of the project safety case study. Ubiquitous sensing of air, water, soil and our construction projects and civil works is now a mainstay in our profession and our in our research. Students will learn how to setup, deploy and maintain sensors as well as analyze sensor datasets to produce quality controlled results that are useful for understanding processes associated with the water quality case study. Our IMHub will be realized by leveraging our existing strengths from our NSF IUSE project focused on readying graduate students for success who are classified as underrepresented in STEM due to theme being from Appalachian rural communities. We will also leverage our existing collaborations with the National Society of Black Engineers and the Kentucky Appalachian Center.
Effective start/end date7/15/226/30/27


  • National Science Foundation: $1,284,194.00


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