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Educational Partnerships With Secondary Schools To Promote Minority Entry Into The Engineering And Technology Disciplines – The Initiatives And Achievements Of Project Smile

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.511.1 - 11.511.8



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Paper Authors


Andrew Otieno Northern Illinois University

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ANDREW W. OTIENO has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Technology at Northern Illinois University (NIU) since August 2000. He received his Ph.D. from Leeds University, UK in 1994, in mechanical engineering. Dr. Otieno has worked in various capacities at several institutions both in the United States and in Kenya. Before joining NIU, he was a Post-doctoral research fellow at the Intelligent Systems Center, University of Missouri-Rolla. His research interests include structural health monitoring, finite element modeling, machining processes, machine vision applications in tool wear monitoring and micro-machining processes. He is a member of the ASEE, ASME, NSBE and the SME. Dr. Otieno has published several articles in the areas of machine vision applications, structural health monitoring and manufacturing education.

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Clifford Mirman Northern Illinois University

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CLIFFORD R. MIRMAN received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1991. From 1991 until 1999, he was a faculty member in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Wilkes University’s. He is currently the Chair of the Department of Technology at NIU. His research areas are CAD, finite-element-analysis, and kinematics, both securing grants and writing publications. Dr. Mirman is actively involved in ASEE and SME.

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Abul Azad Northern Illinois University

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ABUL AZAD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Technology at Northern Illinois University, USA since July 2001. He completed his PhD in 1994 from the University of Sheffield, UK, which was sponsored by the Commonwealth Scholarship, UK. Subsequently he worked with the University of Sheffield and University of Portsmouth (UK) in various capacities. His research and teaching interests include Internet-based physical experiments, mechatronics, real-time computer control, adaptive/intelligent control, and mobile robotics. Dr. Azad has over 75 referred journal and conference papers and one edited book in these areas. He has active membership and involvement in several learned societies, including the IEE, IEEE, ASEE, and ISA.

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Educational Partnerships with Secondary Schools to Promote Minority Entry into the Engineering and Technology Disciplines – The Initiatives and Achievements of Project SMILE


The strong need to educate the next generation of technically oriented students within minority communities and women has continuously been a focus of many K-12 coalitions. Available data shows a very low representation of minorities and women in the Science and Engineering fields. Through early introduction to engineering and technology, and dissemination of information related to careers and education in these fields, minority and women student representation is being expanded. This paper reports on a collaborative project between a university and middle and high schools to address this low representation. A coalition involving faculty in the university, and science and math teachers in various school districts resulted in the development of a unique educational model that was first piloted in the summer 2005. The model comprises of a series of short educational modules emphasizing hands-on applications within various technical areas. Four modules were developed and offered to the middle and high school students. They involved electronics, manufacturing, structural modeling by bridge building, and plastics processing. Except for bridge building, each module was developed as a stand alone component to be completed within a two to three hour time frame, and culminated into a tangible product that the students took home. Through the application of hands-on experiments, the students were able to feel the connection to the engineering and technology areas as they developed a sense of skill, workmanship, and accomplishment by making a complete part. The bridge building was team- based and the individual student teams competed amongst each other to build a bridge that held the largest load. The winning team and runner-up were awarded prizes. This paper reports the development, initiatives and accomplishments of the project, which has been funded by Verizon Foundation. The effect of the learning modules on increasing the students’ knowledge about engineering and technology, and the related careers is also discussed.


This project was developed through a joint effort between the Department of Technology at Northern Illinois University and selected school districts in the region (Dekalb, Sycamore and Belvidere). The project was conceived based upon the following facts. The metropolitan areas of Chicago and Rockford have the highest concentration of manufacturing and electrical industries in the state of Illinois1, and thus, there is a constant demand of skilled workers. The demographics of these two important localities show large populations of minorities and families with low incomes, and their representation in the skilled workforce is very low2. In many cases, this can be attributed to the fact that technical education in the underrepresented areas is not adequately stressed early enough in the educational system. The general trend in minority enrollment in engineering and technology at universities, both nationally and statewide, have seen a decline over the last 10 years. Their representation in fields of science and engineering is also still very low. For instance, data from National Science Foundation’s Division of Science Resource Statistics3,4 shows the percentage of minorities (African American, Hispanics and

Otieno, A., & Mirman, C., & Azad, A. (2006, June), Educational Partnerships With Secondary Schools To Promote Minority Entry Into The Engineering And Technology Disciplines – The Initiatives And Achievements Of Project Smile Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--967

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