Asee peer logo

The Impact of a Robotics Summer Undergraduate Research Experience on Increasing the Pipeline to Graduate School

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1538.1 - 26.1538.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Leyla F Conrad Georgia Institute of Technology

visit author page

Leyla Conrad is the Director of Outreach in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She has been developing and leading programs for undergraduate engineering students, ECE female and minority students, as well as high school students and teachers that supports the ECE’s graduate and undergraduate recruitment and retention efforts. She is also the Education and Diversity Director of the NSF funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at Georgia Tech. The Center’s objective is to research fabrication and characterization approaches for the implementation of epitaxial graphene as an electronic material and educate a diverse group of students at all levels in this field. Before her current appointment, she served as the Education Director of the NSF supported research centers: Packaging Research Center (1998-2006) and Center on Materials Devices for IT Research (2006-2008). In both positions, she created and implemented a highly integrated and comprehensive educational program at all levels to meet the educational needs of pre-college, undergraduate, graduate students, and industry engineers. Dr. Conrad received her Ph.D. degree in Physics from the University of Missouri – Columbia in 1990.

visit author page


Jill L Auerbach Georgia Institute of Technology

visit author page

Auerbach’s expertise is in program evaluation and assessment. Responsible for ABET and SACS reviews in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, she is also the director of the Office of Undergraduate Research in the School. Designing and implementing programs designed to increase student retention and academic engagement is a primary area of specialization.

visit author page


Ayanna Howard Georgia Institute of Technology

visit author page

Ayanna Howard is the Motorola Foundation Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She received her B.S. in Engineering from Brown University, her M.S.E.E. from the University of Southern California, and her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1999. Her area of research is centered around the concept of humanized intelligence, the process of embedding human cognitive capability into the control path of autonomous systems. This work, which addresses issues of autonomous control as well as aspects of interaction with humans and the surrounding environment, has resulted in over 180 peer-reviewed publications in a number of projects – from scientific rover navigation in glacier environments to assistive robots for the home. To date, her unique accomplishments have been highlighted through a number of awards and articles, including highlights in USA Today, Upscale, and TIME Magazine, as well as being named a MIT Technology Review top young innovator of 2003, recognized as NSBE Educator of the Year in 2009, and receiving the Georgia-Tech Outstanding Interdisciplinary Activities Award in 2013. In 2013, she also founded Zyrobotics, which is currently licensing technology derived from her research lab and has released their first suite of educational technology products. From 1993-2005, Dr. Howard was at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. Following this, she joined Georgia Tech in July 2005 and founded the Human-Automation Systems Lab. She is currently the Associate Director of Research for the Georgia Tech Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines. Prior to that, she served as Chair of the multidisciplinary Robotics Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech for three years from 2010-2013.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The Impact of a Robotics Summer Undergraduate Research Experience on Increasing the Pipeline to Graduate School Leyla Conrad, Jill Auerbach, and Ayanna Howard School of Electrical and Computer Engineering Georgia Institute of TechnologyThe Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering/Science (SURE)*program, initiated in 1992, is a ten-week summer program for junior and seniorlevel undergraduates from U.S. institutions. In 2013, the program instituted a newinitiative to provide opportunities to students focused on robotics research, andas a direct consequence, interest them in opportunities available throughgraduate study. Robotics, as a discipline, is inherently interdisciplinary,combining all aspects of engineering and computer science necessary fordesigning and deploying integrated systems and solutions. Every year eightstudents with diverse backgrounds are selected and paired with faculty advisorsand graduate student mentors who are members of the Institute for Robotics andIntelligent Machines. In addition to conducting research during their stay,students also participate in a week-long robotics boot camp their first week,attend weekly seminars on emerging research in engineering fields, visit localindustry, participate in enrichment and academic development activities, andattend social events. Students conclude the program with researchpresentations to their peers and faculty and graduate student mentors. Duringthe life of the SURE program, 541 students, selected from a pool of 2,899applicants, have participated in the program. A comprehensive assessmentprogram for SURE has been developed and implemented. The assessmentprocess is driven by the overall program objective to provide participants ameaningful research experience and enrichment activities to increase thelikelihood that participants will attend graduate school in engineering/science.This model identifies three cohorts from which data is collected. Each datasource provides unique information that contributes to a comprehensive analysisof the impact and experiences of program participants and to an understandingof the academic trends of all SURE program applicants. The pre- and post-program surveys, focus group session and interviews with participants include aseries of questions about students’ research interests, and participants’perceived impact of SURE on research skills and planned graduate schoolattendance. The faculty advisor survey includes questions about the contributionthe students made to their research programs, whether or not their student wouldsucceed in graduate school, the quality of the students' oral and written projectpresentations, and how the program could be improved in future years. TheLongitudinal Survey of Former SURE Participants, conducted every four years,addresses the primary objective of the SURE program to motivate participatingstudents to attend graduate school in engineering/science. Respondents areasked a variety of questions about their academic decisions after participating inthe SURE program. Detailed data about graduate school attendance, degreeattainment, and major is collected and analyzed. Questions are included toobtain feedback about their co-curricular activities and the environment of theirundergraduate institutions. Another set of questions refer to sources ofencouragement that students might have had when deciding to attend graduateschool. Thus far, the program has been tremendously successful in attaining itsobjectives. Collected outcome measures have shown that 77% of the studentswho participate in the program attend graduate school in engineering/scienceand 6% attend medical school upon receiving their B.S. degree.* Supported by the NSF award EEC-1263049

Conrad, L. F., & Auerbach, J. L., & Howard, A. (2015, June), The Impact of a Robotics Summer Undergraduate Research Experience on Increasing the Pipeline to Graduate School Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24875

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015