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Engaging Minority and Underrepresented Engineering Students to Fight “Sophomore Slump” Through a Summer Research and Enrichment Program (Research)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Lei Miao Middle Tennessee State Univ.

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Lei Miao is currently Associate Professor of Mechatronics Engineering at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). He received his Ph.D. degree from Boston University, Master's and Bachelor's degrees from Northeastern University of China, in 2006, 2001, and 1998, respectively. From 2006 to 2009, he was with Nortel Networks in Billerica, MA. From 2009 to 2011, he was with the University of Cincinnati. From 2011 to 2014, he was with NuVo Technologies/Legrand North America. From 2014 to 2015, he was with the State University of New York Farmingdale. He joined MTSU in fall 2015 as an assistant professor and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2020. He has had over 15 years R&D experience in system control and optimization, embedded systems, and intelligent transportation systems. He has had over 30 publications in referred conferences and journals.

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Cen Li Middle Tennessee State University

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Dr. Cen Li is currently a Professor in the Computer Science Department at Middle Tennessee State University. She received her PhD and MS from the Computer Science department at Vanderbilt University in 2000 and 1995 respectively, and her BS from Middle Tennessee State University in 1993. Dr. Li's main research areas are in Machine Learning, Data Mining, and Robotics.

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It is well known that there exists a gap in academic performance between the underrepresented groups and the majority of engineering students. Closing this gap is more challenging in the sophomore year due to a well-known phenomenon in college education known as “sophomore slump”, which is more common among minority and underrepresented students and requires institutional efforts to help the students adjust in the sophomore year. In this paper, we present a research project funded by a Student Engagement, Retention, and Success (SERS) grant from the Tennessee Board of Regents. The goal of the project is to improve the GPA and retention rate of underrepresented and minority students by engaging them in a summer research and enrichment program. The project was carried out in Summer 2020. Compared with similar activities in the literature, our program has the following unique features: (1) Low floor, wide walls, and high ceiling; (2) Collaborative learning in a cross-disciplinary setting; (3) Hands-on and real-world oriented; and (4) It was offered online instead of face-to-face. Based on student survey results and Fall 2020 retention rate, the summer program is very successful. This paper explains in details the motivation of the research project, how the students were recruited, the preparation done by the PI and co-PI, how the topics of the student projects were selected, how the students collaborated remotely, the assessment methods, measurable outcomes, and challenges and lessons learned during the process.

Miao, L., & Li, C. (2021, July), Engaging Minority and Underrepresented Engineering Students to Fight “Sophomore Slump” Through a Summer Research and Enrichment Program (Research) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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