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Incorporating A Learning Community Approach To Enhance A Fuel Cell Research Experience For Undergraduates (Reu)

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Conference

2008 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Investigating Fuel Cells and Alternative Fuels in the Classroom and Lab

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count

9

Page Numbers

13.726.1 - 13.726.9

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/3872

Download Count

27

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Paper Authors

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Cortney Martin Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. Cortney V. Martin has worked in information design, pedagogy, and education for over 15 years including serving as the Assistant Director of the Blacksburg Electronic Village and the Broadband Wireless Networking Director for Virginia Tech. She teaches as a part of an innovative interdisciplinary thematic four-course sequence focused on Earth Sustainability and serves as the Research Coordinator for a fuel cell REU program. Her PhD is in Industrial Engineering (human factors) from Virginia Tech.

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Brandy Bratton Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Brandy B. Barrow is a graduate student in the Department of Educational Research and Evaluation. She has been on the SURP evaluation team for the past three years.

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David Dillard Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. David A. Dillard is the Adhesive and Sealant Science Professor in the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. His research is focused in the area of time dependent properties and fracture of polymeric materials, most recently in fuel cell applications. This interest spawned development of the Materials and Processes for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells Research Experience for Undergraduates.

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Michael Ellis Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. Michael W. Ellis is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech and co-PI of the Materials and Processes for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells Research Experience for Undergraduates. He has a PhD from Georgia Tech.

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Maggie Bump Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. Maggie B. Bump received her teaching certification in 1996 and her Ph.D. in Synthetic Polymer Chemistry in 2001 from Virginia Tech. She continues her work at Virginia Tech, teaching Organic Chemistry and directing the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) for the Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute. In her capacity as SURP Director, she has also developed and implemented the Young Scientist Experience for children.

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

Incorporating a Learning Community Approach to Enhance a Fuel Cell Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

Abstract

Undergraduate summer research experiences typically involve a mix of solitary research coupled with traditional classroom-based seminars. The short duration of the experience and the often isolated nature of the project can preclude development of the network of personal interactions that characterizes contemporary collaborative research and learning. This paper discusses steps that have been taken to transition the Materials and Processes for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells Research Experience for Undergraduates to a learning community model. In 2007, a research group facilitator position was added to build rapport among students, encourage dissemination of research through publications and presentations, and to guide their choice and voice in their summer experience. Programmatic changes included weekly brown bag lunches, student-initiated lab tours, peer problem solving and editing, and social events. Exit interview data revealed that this was a positive change resulting in a better sense of community and a more rewarding and successful experience. Future additions to the program will include gathering program input at the start of the summer to shape seminars and workshops, offering training and support to mentors, incorporating a book club element to the brown bag lunches, expanding networking opportunities, and offering additional resources to support the communication goals. Based on our results, other REUs are encouraged to incorporate learning community principles to add value to the experience for their participants.

Introduction

Learning community frameworks are being increasingly utilized in classrooms and residential settings because they are recognized as providing pathways to greater student learning and development – personal, interpersonal, and epistemological1,2. There are many contexts for learning communities in both formal and informal educational settings, but the common theme is that the students are actively and collaboratively vested in their own learning, which results in greater student engagement3. Learning communities are well-suited to contribute to the training and development of engineers in areas such as teamwork and communication skills, but also in collaborative design, problem solving, ethics, and an understanding of the larger context for their work.

Undergraduate summer research programs have historically been founded on traditional pedagogy: instructor-led seminars and faculty-directed research and problem solving, with the latter often including an experienced graduate student or postdoctoral mentor. The self- contained nature of summer research projects often contribute to the sense of isolation that does not accurately reflect contemporary research. We propose changing the program paradigm from a traditional faculty-centered approach to a student-centered learning community approach. Empirical studies tell us that learning communities can increase student engagement over traditional didactic models. Students are expected to develop a greater sense of ownership and thus enhanced self-efficacy with regard to their personal research and collaborative abilities. In addition to enabling students to have a rich research experience, the program is also designed to

Martin, C., & Bratton, B., & Dillard, D., & Ellis, M., & Bump, M. (2008, June), Incorporating A Learning Community Approach To Enhance A Fuel Cell Research Experience For Undergraduates (Reu) Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3872

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