Undergraduates in science, technology, engineering, and math not only need to enter the workforce with strong technical skills, but also with strong professional skills such as writing, presenting, and working in teams. Unfortunately, many leaders in industry report that the professional skills of these students are not strong enough. Therefore, colleges and universities are looking for new ways to strengthen these skills. Adding additional course content to existing courses or creating new courses to teach this content is often not feasible due to already crowded curricula. Outside of courses, one opportunity for undergraduates in technical fields to learn professional skills is through outreach activities. In these activities, undergraduates reach out to younger students in elementary, middle, and high schools and communicate what occurs in their respective fields. For example, outreach could include hosting a summer camp for middle school students on robotics or visiting a high school to give an electrical engineering demonstration. Not only do undergraduates receive training for these outreach activities, but they have the opportunity to practice what was learned multiple times. Recently, one outreach program, the Engineering Ambassadors Network, discovered that one of their particular training-and-practice sequences led the participating undergraduates to dramatically improve their presentation skills. Because scores of outreach programs exist around the country, the question arises: Do other outreach programs have training-and-practice sequences that lead undergraduates to greatly improve other professional skills?
This project seeks to determine which outreach programs in the United States provide the most transformative professional development of the participating undergraduates from engineering. To accomplish this goal, we have identified four tasks: (i) perform a systematic review of existing outreach programs involving engineering undergraduates; (ii) convene a workshop with outreach advisors to establish a network and thematic strands of common practices; (iii) synthesize the data obtained from the workshops to identify transformative practices of professional development; and (iv) convene two national training workshops to disseminate the practices to engineering undergraduates who perform outreach. An advisory board, composed of a number of stakeholders, provides guidance for this project. To disseminate the project's results, we are using a number of venues and a range of communication methods. In particular, we are targeting the many programs that conduct organized outreach performed by engineering undergraduates. Specifically, dissemination is occurring through the two national workshops mentioned above, academic papers, an online report targeting a wide audience, and online tutorials for the transformative practices of professional development.
|Effective start/end date
|10/1/17 → 9/30/20
- National Science Foundation: $299,999.00