June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.1027.1 - 14.1027.23
“Research Experiences for Undergraduate Sites for Tomorrows Engineers”
This paper documents the programs implemented in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites offered from 1992 to 2008 at two different institutions, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma and University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio. The programs have been funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The primary goal of the NSF REU program is to introduce undergraduate students to, and encourage them to pursue, careers in research. The paper presents how the whole research program was planned and conducted, the research training provided to the students, an overview of the projects completed by the students, the procedures used to evaluate the impact of the programs, the process used to track the students, and the outcomes of the programs. This paper will help others plan similar research experiences for engineering undergraduate students.
The engineering schools in the U.S. now face internal and external challenges, impacting the marketability of our students. From 1985 to 2005, high school graduates went up 20.7%1 while engineering bachelor degrees went down 5.7%2. The number of students indicating interest in engineering has dropped from 11% in 1985 to 7.2% in 20052. As we face this internal challenge, expanding global economy has further created a growing concern regarding the ability of America to remain competitive. With improved telecommunications and digitization, more engineering can be done without close proximity3. However, off-shoring is likely to have little impact on the most highly educated engineers. Thus, engineering education is evolving, with more emphasis on graduate education, as outlined in a recently released series of reports by the National Academy of Engineering4, 5. Educators recognize that undergraduate research motivates students to apply for graduate school.
The Boyer’s Commission6 asserted that research universities often miss opportunities to enrich and strengthen undergraduate education by providing exposure to faculty research and the research process. Recent statistics indicate that declining populations of engineers pursue advanced degrees7. Research experiences for undergraduates (REU) programs are widely promoted as an effective educational tool for enhancing the undergraduate experience8, 9 with multiple benefits10, the most instrumental of which is an increased interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers11, 12. REU fosters increased persistence in the pursuit of an undergraduate degree13; increased interest in pursuing graduate education14, 15; and gains in skills by REU alumni over comparison groups (conducting research, acquiring information, and speaking effectively)16. REU helps develop career pathways for underrepresented students by increasing minority retention13 and the number of minority students pursuing graduate degrees17. Attempts to determine an empirically established set of REU- generated benefits are fairly recent10, 14. U.S. NSF and Howard Hughes Medical Institute funded three studies to find the benefits of REU initiatives17-23. Lappotto23 compares how learning occurs in an REU experience with that reported in How People Learn24. Various papers have documented successes of REU programs10, 25-38.
Kukreti, A. (2009, June), Research Experiences At Undergraduate Sites For Tomorrow’s Engineers Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5636
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