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Board 343: Native American Student Research Experiences in IoT-Enabled Environmental Monitoring Technologies: An Analysis of North Dakota Tribal Student Experiences in Beijing, China and Mobile, Alabama

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Jill M. D. Motschenbacher University of Nebraska, Lincoln Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jill Motschenbacher is an Associate Professor of Practice in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Her current academic and research teaching interests center on developing and teaching core courses for the Conservation Agriculture specialization of UNL’s Master of Applied Science (MAS) program, which involves system-based courses that evaluate domestic and international agricultural system resilience. Dr. Motschenbacher holds a PhD in Soil Physics (2012, Univ. of Arkansas), an MEd in Higher Education Administration (Middle Tennessee State Univ., 2007), and a BS in Agribusiness (Middle Tennessee State Univ., 2007). Academic positions she has held include Postdoctoral Researcher in Biosystems Engineering (Iowa State Univ., 2013), Instructor/Adjunct/Assistant Professor of Practice of Soil Science (North Dakota State Univ., 2014-2022), and Associate Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning (North Dakota State Univ., 2016-2022).
Within the past 15 years, she has designed and taught six undergraduate- and graduate- level courses at three land-grant universities, served as a co-PI on two NSF grants, organized federally-funded experiential learning programs for Tribal students across the Dakotas, directed university-level grant programs for 170+ faculty in active and inclusive teaching and research methods, served as an office director with administrative oversight of university-wide teaching services, provided state-wide extension outreach to agricultural producers and youth programs, and has been contracted by USAID for agricultural and community development in east Africa. Previously, she served in the United States Navy as an Interior Communications Electrician aboard the USS Sacramento (AOE-1) with the Pacific 7th Fleet.

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Jinhui Wang University of South Alabama

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Dr. Jinhui Wang currently is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of South Alabama (USA). He is co-director of the Intelligent Multi-Level Power-Aware Circuits and sysTems (IMPACT) Lab. His research interests include VLSI, 3D-IC, Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technology, Neuromorphic Computing Device and Hardware, Emerging Memory Design, Cooling Technique for Electronic Devices, Wireless Sensor Networks and IoT (Internet of Things), Electronic Subsystems for Biomedical Applications.

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Amber D. Finley

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Native American students were recruited annually from five Tribal Colleges and two research universities in North Dakota to participate in a five-week, National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) summer program (2019-2022). In 2019, Native American student participants traveled to Beijing, China to learn Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled technology at the Beijing University of Technology (BJUT). In 2020 and 2021, training for student participants was placed on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2022, public limitations related to Covid-19 had eased in the United States due to vaccine availability; however, fluctuating global travel restrictions created the need to domestically relocate the IRES training program to Mobile, Alabama.

In 2022, a cohort of 12 students – 5 new Native American students from North Dakota, 5 traditionally underrepresented engineering students from southern Alabama, and 2 previous Native American students from the 2019 Cohort (serving as senior mentors) – were trained on wireless sensor network design, energy harvest design, edge-AI design, and new technologies, such as memristors, for IoT-enabled environmental monitoring systems at the University of South Alabama (USA) in Mobile, Alabama. Engineering-based learning content in the program remained consistent with instructional material taught to the 2019 cohort, apart from technical updates; however, changes in sociocultural learning experiences were adjusted for the new program location. Learning activities and dialogues were expanded to incorporate aspects of the south Alabama culture – comprising of a multilayered history involving White Southern, Black Southern, and Poarch Band of Creek Indian populations – with Chinese and the Northern Great Plains Native Americans cultures.

Program training effectiveness and student experiences were evaluated through student skill assessments, student engagement observations, formative and summative participant surveys, training observations, feedback from group discussions, and individual interviews. Results indicate that student participants grasped key quantitative and technical skills through the combination of instructional guidance, peer-mentoring, and hands-on experiences. Nearly all students experienced positive and unexpected encounters in cultural learning and perceived the overall experience as positively impacting their academic training, career development, and cultural understanding.

Changing an academic training program from being in a ‘study-abroad’ to a ‘study-domestic’ setting because of a global pandemic has unique challenges; however, gaining unexpected insight into how diverse student populations navigate, adapt, and experience different training environments and cultures is invaluable. This NSF-funded IRES program revealed essential concepts that make Native American students feel welcomed, valued, and heard. Listening and adapting to student needs through a flexible, genuine, and culturally-aware curriculum empowers students and is essential for lifelong learning and successful integration of underrepresented students into engineering-based disciplines.

Motschenbacher, J. M. D., & Wang, J., & Finley, A. D. (2023, June), Board 343: Native American Student Research Experiences in IoT-Enabled Environmental Monitoring Technologies: An Analysis of North Dakota Tribal Student Experiences in Beijing, China and Mobile, Alabama Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42965

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