Undergraduate Education Program

Grant Abstracts 2018

Mount Saint Mary's University

Kim Middleton
Los Angeles, CA
$350,000
June 2018

Through the establishment of an interdisciplinary makerspace and expansion of related faculty resources and support, Mount Saint Mary’s University seeks to enhance critical thinking, engagement, and stimulate peer-to-peer learning among students throughout its traditional undergraduate programs.  Under the auspices of the University’s Center for Academic Innovation and Creativity, the project director will work with a group of faculty representing the humanities, fine arts, natural sciences, and health sciences, to promote and pilot makerspace pedagogy among the wider faculty.  To ensure accessibility for faculty and students with limited time and impacted schedules, the proposed project relies initially on the use of multi-week modules: one-to-three-week makerspace-based projects that can be embedded within existing curriculum with relative ease and minimal revision.  It is expected that, after faculty have had the opportunity to pilot embedded modules within courses and experience the benefits of this technology and pedagogy, many will subsequently elect to design or redesign entire courses based around this pedagogy.  This project connects makerspace training and staffing to the University’s novel Student Media Services program in order to further peer learning and encourage student “ownership” of the space.  Further, the types of learning and activities that makerspaces facilitate are considered to be “high-impact practices,” which have been linked to improved student outcomes, especially among underrepresented populations.  In light of the diverse population that Mount St. Mary’s serves, an additional outcome of this project is expected to be the generation of new knowledge about how to meaningfully engage underrepresented populations in these spaces.

Oregon Institute of Technology

Eklas Hossain
Klamath Falls, OR
$225,000
June 2018

This project will support the development of a small-scale independent “Smart Grid” lab to be used in undergraduate engineering programs at Oregon Tech.  The Smart Grid lab provides an independent hardware/software platform to explore operation, control and integration of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and geothermal with an existing power grid.  It will increase the competence of undergraduate students by arming them with advanced multidisciplinary knowledge to make them the perfect workforce for the evolving energy sector and power grid.  The new careers in energy sector require knowledge of several disciplines.  The current curriculum does not cover all of them, and the presently available materials and tools need to be updated to meet the changing needs of the evolving power grid.  This project will provide the Electrical Engineering & Renewable Energy department with those tools to expand the current curriculum with a complete independent Smart Grid platform that is currently absent in this sector.  It will also enable the students and faculty to conduct lab development and research work, independently and with collaboration with other institutes and industries, which will produce a lab/class experience for undergraduate engineering students using an actual small scale power grid.

San Jose State University

Lionel Cheruzel
San Jose, CA
$225,000
June 2018

This project will engage students at the beginning of their undergraduate career in authentic research experiences.  The purpose is to develop student’s research-related skills and scientific understanding as well as increase research activities in the College of Science at San Jose State University.  This program, coined the Freshman Initiative for Research to Engage Students (FIRES), capitalizes on the scientific expertise of the four principle investigators (PIs) all with strong track records and experience in undergraduate research.  The introductory general chemistry sections will encourage students to enroll in a special Introduction to Research course, which will count toward their degree.  This course is designed to prepare students for research by dividing the learning experience into smaller segments, weekly training sessions, online training modules and guidance from peer mentors.  The students will then enter rotations in interdisciplinary research streams for an intensive hands-on experience.  Each stream rotation will offer a unique experience ranging from biocatalysis, to small molecule synthesis and biophysical characterization using state-of-the-art instrumentation.  Students can continue independent research in one of the PI’s laboratories or with other research groups in the biology and chemistry departments.  Students will benefit from research and mentorship stipends as well as later stage training programs already in place at SJSU to participate in research endeavors throughout their collegiate career.  The designed combination of a course and research streams is scalable, to accommodate an increasing number of freshmen.

Texas A&M University

Wei Li
College Station, TX
$300,000
June 2018

Educators from Texas A&M University will design and implement an interdisciplinary project based learning model named ENDEAVR.  The model will help students embrace the paradigm shift of smart cities and technological development associated with automation and connectivity, with a particular focus on autonomous vehicles.  It will consist of four components, 1) an interdisciplinary seminar course, 2) an interdisciplinary project-based learning course, 3) community outreach, and 4) assessment of learning and community impact.  These components will focus on enhancing students’ interdisciplinary competence, critical thinking, and creative-problem-solving skills.  ENDEAVR will be a scalable and transferable model that can be implemented in other higher-education institutions across the nation.  Therefore, it has a strong potential to advance and transform the nation’s interdisciplinary undergraduate education in the era of smart and connected communities.

University of Dallas

Ellen Steinmiller
Irving, TX
$300,000
June 2018

The University of Dallas will enhance cross-disciplinary scientific investigations offered to undergraduate students through teaching and research using a new scanning electron microscope (SEM).  The SEM will strengthen a cross-disciplinary initiative between the biology, chemistry and physics departments.  An existing lab course, Integrated Science Laboratory: The Color Blue, will be expanded to investigate nanoscale structures that cause blue coloration.  In addition, a new upper-level course in materials science will be developed and implemented in 2020.  The SEM will also enhance current undergraduate research in the areas of insect morphology characteristics and metal oxide photocatalytic properties.  This SEM will offer new opportunities for the university’s expanding science student body and faculty in scientific areas that span several disciplines.

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