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Benefits for Undergraduates from Engagement in an Interdisciplinary Environmental Monitoring Research and Education Lab

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2018

Conference Session

Merging Disciplines: Practice and Benefits

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count

17

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/27653

Download Count

19

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Paper Authors

biography

Debarati Basu Virginia Tech

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Ms. Debarati Basu is a PhD candidate in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech (VT), advised by Dr. Vinod K. Lohani and working in the Learning Enhanced Watershed Assessment System (LEWAS) lab. She holds BS and MS in Computer Science and Engineering. For her dissertation, she is interested in understanding students’ learning and engagement within a cyberlearning system. She has three years of experiences in teaching problem solving and design process to freshmen engineers in a project based environment at VT. As a lead graduate research assistant for the REU Site on Interdisciplinary Water Science and Engineering for the last three years, she has experience in coordinating the Site activities, evaluating the Site, and mentoring the REU fellows. She is the lead graduate research assistant of a Cybersecurity education project. Moreover, she mentors undergraduates and actively participates in outreach activities in the LEWAS lab. She has experiences in developing and implementing LEWAS-based modules, and working with the first-year curriculum.

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Daniel S. Brogan Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Daniel S. Brogan a postdoctoral associate working on engaged learning at the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech. From 2011 to 2017 he was a doctoral student in engineering education at Virginia Tech, where his research involved the development and classroom implementation of the Online Watershed Learning System (OWLS), a guided, open-ended cyberlearning environment that is driven by HTML5, JavaScript and CSS (http://www.lewas.centers.vt.edu/dataviewer/) and serves as a user interface to the Learning Enhanced Watershed Assessment System (LEWAS) Lab. In 2011 he founded Bhutanese-Nepali Christian Media Ministries, which utilizes online media to address needs in Christian ministries for people in these language groups. Prior to June 2010, he was a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire, where he earned his BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering.

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Thomas G. Westfall Virginia Tech

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I am an environmental engineering graduate student researching water quality issues in urban streams and rivers. I am specifically interested in developing methods using real-time environmental data for stakeholders in the urban community.

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James Edward Taylor

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Serena Lise Emanuel Virginia Tech

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Ms. Serena Lise Emanuel is a Biological Systems Engineering student in her third year at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Focusing on watershed management and protection, she has explored water resources in Hangzhou, China and Dublin, Ireland through internship and study abroad opportunities.

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Mathew Verghese Virginia Tech

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Nick Falls Virginia Tech

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Nicholas Falls was born in Roanoke, Virginia on June 30, 1995. After graduating from James River High School, he attended Virginia Western Community College where he received an Associate’s degree in Engineering in 2015. Upon graduation from community college, he transferred to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University where he studied Electrical Engineering with plans to graduate in the spring of 2018.
Over the summers he worked as an intern at Gala Industries where he worked along side electricians reading and troubleshooting schematics and wiring the equipment. He was also involved in an the LEWAS lab, an undergraduate research lab at Virginia Tech where he investigated solar power and using it to power equipment.
He graduated from Virginia Western with the honor of Suma Cum Laude. At Virginia Tech he was involved in many clubs and organizations including the Student Government Association, Eta Kappa Nu (the Electrical and Computer Engineering honor society), the LEWAS lab, Phi Sigma Kappa (a social fraternity), and the Electrical and Computer Engineering ambassadors.

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Vinod K. Lohani Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. Vinod K. Lohani is a Professor of Engineering Education and also serves as the faculty director of education and global initiatives at an interdisciplinary research institute called the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) at Virginia Tech. He is founding director of an interdisciplinary lab called Learning Enhanced Watershed Assessment System (LEWAS) at VT. He received a Ph.D. in civil engineering from VT. His research interests are in the areas of computer-supported research and learning systems, hydrology, engineering education, and international collaboration. He has led several interdisciplinary research and curriculum reform projects, funded by the National Science Foundation, and has participated in research and curriculum development projects with $6.4 million funding from external sources. He has been directing/co-directing an NSF/Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site on interdisciplinary water sciences and engineering at VT since 2007. This site has 85 alumni to date. He also leads an NSF/Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) site on interdisciplinary water research. He has published over 85 papers in peer-reviewed journals and conferences.

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Abstract

An interdisciplinary approach to research is essential to solving the complex global problems of the 21st century. In order to tackle these multifaceted problems, undergraduates need to gain interdisciplinary experiences beyond the knowledge and skills of their disciplinary silos. Interdisciplinary experiences help students to develop appreciation for other disciplines, enabling them to integrate and analyze various disciplinary perspectives by critically thinking through them, and ultimately helping them to envision innovative solutions to complex problems. These experiences also assist students in understanding the limitations and weaknesses of their own disciplines. Undergraduate experiential interdisciplinary learning experiences are a priority defined by the president of Virginia Tech as it relates to the broader visionary goals of the University. Within this context, the Learning Enhanced Watershed Assessment System (LEWAS) is a high-frequency, real-time environmental monitoring lab located on the campus of Virginia Tech. Since the lab started in 2008 it has been utilized in 26 undergraduate courses at 8 community colleges and universities across 3 continents, via its experiential learning initiatives. It has an interdisciplinary team that consists of two faculty members, one post doc, five graduate students and six undergraduate students from various academic backgrounds including engineering education, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, civil and environmental engineering, chemical engineering, biological systems engineering, crop & soil environmental science, and biology. The benefits for undergraduates engaged in this interdisciplinary research lab are the focus of this paper. These are based on the personal experiences of five undergraduates, from five engineering majors, who are engaged in this lab. Each one of these five undergraduates has had either a graduate or a postdoc mentor and a faculty advisor. They have been engaged with the lab for various lengths of time from 2 semesters to 5 years, and each one typically works there for 5-10 hours per week. Further details about these undergraduates will be elaborated on in the paper. Being involved with various interdisciplinary real-world research projects with team members from multiple disciplines has helped these undergraduates to gain experiences outside their own disciplines. This has aided them in developing diverse skill sets that are described in terms of: interdisciplinary experiences, links between their classroom learning and lab experiences, academic and professional skills, impacts of faculty and graduate mentoring, and impacts on academic and career decisions.

Basu, D., & Brogan, D. S., & Westfall, T. G., & Taylor, J. E., & Emanuel, S. L., & Verghese, M., & Falls, N., & Lohani, V. K. (2017, June), Benefits for Undergraduates from Engagement in an Interdisciplinary Environmental Monitoring Research and Education Lab Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/27653

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