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Research and Leadership Experiences for Undergraduates (RLEU) in Optimization with Engineering Applications

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovatiive Methods to Teach Engineering to URMs

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1123.1 - 25.1123.6



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Paper Authors


Jose F. Espiritu University of Texas, El Paso

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Jose F. Espiritu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering at the University of Texas, El Paso. He is interested in interdisciplinary research that focuses in the understanding of the energy and sustainability challenges and alternative energy issues through innovative solutions for consumers and industry. His research work has been published in several
recognized journals such as Electric Power Systems Research, the Engineering Economist, and the Journal of
Risk and Reliability, among others.

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Heidi A. Taboada University of Texas, El Paso

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Heidi A. Taboada is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering at the University of Texas, El Paso. She holds M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in industrial and systems engineering from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Her research strengths involve the development of multiple objective optimization models and evolutionary game theory algorithms, design of new biologically inspired algorithms, and renewable energy systems optimization. Taboada has published more than 30 refereed manuscripts in technical journals, book chapters, and conference proceedings. Her work has been published in IEEE Transactions on Reliability, Reliability Engineering and System Safety, IIE Transactions, and Quality Technology and Quantitative Management, among others. Taboada is currently serving as an Associate Editor for the International Journal of Performability Engineering, as an Editorial Board member for the International Journal of Operations Research and Information Systems, and as the Secretary/Treasurer of the American Society of Engineering Education Industrial Engineering Division.

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Connie Gomez University of Texas, El Paso

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Connie Gomez received her B.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia. She was a member of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Texas, El Paso. She is currently serving at Galveston College. Her research interests include biomedical robotics, biomedical ethics, sustainability engineering, and green ethics.

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Research and Leadership Experiences for Undergraduates (RLEU) in Optimization with Engineering ApplicationsAbstractTraditional Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU’s) typically pair an undergraduatestudent with a researcher for several weeks. The student’s efforts usually result in a poster, apresentation, or even a paper. While these REU’s give students a taste of research and some ofthe technical components of conducting research, technical skills alone are not enough to besuccessful a research or academic career. Research experience connected with leadershipbuilding experiences will give students a definite advantage as they continue through theirgraduate and professional careers.This Research and Leadership Experience for Undergraduates (RLEU) grouped a set of minoritystudents on the verge of starting their graduate programs to conduct research in Optimizationwith various engineering applications. The group consisted of students with little to noexperience in Optimization, students from Industrial, Mechanical, and Civil engineeringbackgrounds, and students with limited backgrounds within their assigned engineeringapplications. Like traditional REU’s, these students were paired with researchers with whomthey would conduct research throughout the summer. Unlike more traditional REU’s, thestudents were formed into research teams of at least two students for the same researcher,required to attend optimization lectures, and required to participate in leadership and teambuilding activities.The formation of the small research team gave students the advantage of not entering thisprocess alone. While each student had an individual project, teams had projects that were closelyrelated and on which they could collaborate on throughout the summer. This gave students animmediate support group throughout the summer.With a limited background and understanding of optimization, all the students were introduced tooptimization concepts and approaches for solving optimization problems together. Since thestudents were engaged in research, students had the opportunity to connect the lectures to theirresearch and to discuss their research questions with their peers.Most importantly, students participated in leadership activities that required them to evaluatetheir communication skills, their ability to understand others, their ability to contribute to agroup, and their ability to direct a group.The greatest advantage to this RLEU approach is that students gain an understanding of theirstrengths and weaknesses as leaders and team members so that they can continue to develop inthose areas long after the end of the RLEU.

Espiritu, J. F., & Taboada, H. A., & Gomez, C. (2012, June), Research and Leadership Experiences for Undergraduates (RLEU) in Optimization with Engineering Applications Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21880

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