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Engineering Reu Sites: Designing For Appropriate And Valuable Summer Educational Experiences

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Experiential Learning

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.557.1 - 10.557.12



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Paper Authors

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Kevin Sutterer

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Robert Houghtalen

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James Hanson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Engineering REU Sites: Designing for Appropriate and Valuable Summer Educational Experiences Kevin Sutterer, Martin Brenny, J. David Pirnia, Michelle Woodward, Robert Houghtalen, and Jim Hanson

Department of Civil Engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Abstract The National Science Foundation (NSF) provides funds for summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs with the aim to provide appropriate and valuable educational experiences for undergraduate students through research. Through effective REU programs, talented undergraduate students should be retained and attracted to productive careers in teaching and university research. The “products” of REU programs are the students. They should exit a summer REU program with a clear understanding of what researchers do, how research impacts society, what their options are in pursuing research and higher education, and a toolbox of skills that better prepare them to succeed in related careers. A summer REU program should thus be a research “training camp” to prepare students to make informed choices about a career in teaching and research, and to prepare students for success in those fields, if that is their career choice. As such, the summer REU experience must feature three key parts:

• Leadership of meaningful and valued research • Formal learning about graduate studies, the craft of research, and leadership • A positive and supportive community

The student experience must be understood in order to plan the three key parts of the REU program. Balance between challenging work, formal learning, daily interaction with mentors, enriching trips, and a pleasant social setting is crucial. Similarly, the research mentor (faculty, usually) must consider their role in all three parts of a successful REU program. Passion for the work, faith in the process, collegiality with the students, and commitment to success are contagious and thus essential. Mentors must understand that quality time is not a substitute for quantity of time when students are learning on a tight schedule, and that a close student/mentor relationship on multiple levels should be sought. Finally, the support infrastructure and research setting are essential considerations. This should consist of support personnel that respond quickly; attentive and engaged clients; a varied research experience that includes theory, field, lab, and modeling work; and residential living among a research community. The paper concludes with guidelines for planning successful REU programs, including examples and assessment schemes to foster program success.

Introduction National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsors Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs in the form of REU Sites or Supplements. REU Supplements typically support one or two undergraduates working on an existing or new NSF award while REU Sites typically sponsor groups of 6 to 12 students in a planned, independently granted program (NSF, 2004). “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright . 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Sutterer, K., & Houghtalen, R., & Hanson, J. (2005, June), Engineering Reu Sites: Designing For Appropriate And Valuable Summer Educational Experiences Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15082

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