As the largest HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University leads the nation in awarding undergraduate and graduate engineering degrees to African Americans and is also the top producer of African-American female engineers at the undergraduate level. To enhance students’ preparation for entering an increasingly completive future workforce, the Education Outreach component of this project plans to address some of the existing disconnects between highly specialized disciplines through: (1) identifying a selected number of universities that have successfully established a STEM-Behavioral-Social Science connection, (2) identifying suitable curricular connections between disciplines at NC A&T State, Purdue, and Georgia Tech, (3) proposing/offering appropriate courses, seminars, or workshops to enhance the STEM degree programs, and (4) identifying/promoting cross-disciplinary team-teaching. Based on the published research and scholarly studies, the existing educational gaps between the humanities/social sciences, STEM, and engineering limit students from obtaining a well-rounded education. Thus, through the Education Outreach component, we intend to empower and broaden students’ global perspective and their fundamental knowledge about communication and ethics, social media, entrepreneurship, mobility, and other suitable topics.

1. Education

1.1. Communications and Ethics Program

Closely tied with communication law, ethics is a fundamental responsibility in decision-making and developing mutually beneficial relationships with various constituents of a given organization. This ULI-funded program will enhance the student’s ability to effectively communicate with a target audience (in both writing and speaking), which is an essential skill. A two-day workshop offered during the ULI annual meetings will expose students and faculty to a broad set of topics in communications and ethics.

1.2. Student Mobility Program

This program will fund short-term visits by NC A&T, Purdue, and Georgia Tech. graduate students to visit the partner institutions throughout the year to collaborate in research tasks, share research results and ideas and write joint papers. One unique aspect of this program is that students will engage faculty from partner institutions as thesis/dissertation committee members or co-chairs. This opportunity will be also extended to industry partners and government labs, especially NASA Centers and NIA. ULI will also foster the existing NC A&T’s weekly seminar series to allow graduate students, industry partners, and representatives from government organizations and academia to share their knowledge and collaborate.

1.3. Entrepreneurship Program

This program will provide the students with an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship through a workshop that dovetails with the various research projects between faculty and student cohorts from partner universities. ULI funding, leveraged by other sources, will sponsor this workshop (available to at least 20 students each time) to be offered twice each year via online or classroom settings. Enrollment will be open to all partner universities. Students enrolled in this workshop will actively engage in collaborative learning approaches and gain a greater sense of appreciation for, and understanding of, teamwork, planning, strategic thinking, and implementation. They will be also broadly exposed to ethical, legal, and communication aspects of working in a business environment.

1.4. Course Sharing Program

Select graduate/undergraduate-level courses will be available as online special topic courses to students at the partnering universities. Additional courses will be added as they are developed and shared by each originating university through synchronous/asynchronous video, web-based, and other formats. The content and administrative details for each course will be determined by a professor at a given member university or co-developed and administrated by multiple professors from partnering universities.

2. Outreach

The FIRST LEGO League program, funded by the COE at NC A&T, has been instrumental in providing fun and educational global robotics programs to ignite enthusiasm for discovery of science in the Title 1 students of Guilford County. The program also hosts annual competitions to showcase the progress and collaborations of students. This ULI project will leverage this program and provide middle and high school teacher workshops, focusing on autonomy-related activities that support the K-12 Standards.

2.1. Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI) Outreach

To support our mission of impacting minority-serving institutions, we will conduct a three-day summer workshop at NC A&T. We will work with the IEC (Inclusive Engineering Consortium) to reach a broad audience. Faculty members from minority serving institutions will be invited to present their and their students’ work, engage in an exchange of ideas, and tour facilities and laboratories.

2.2. NASA Indiana Space Grant Consortium (INSGC)

The INSGC, hosted at Purdue, has already committed to four project elements for the 2020-24 program period (beginning May 9, 2020) that are synergistic with the research and outreach programs emphasized in this proposal.In their (approved) proposal, INSGC emphasized a commitment to target NASA Internship and Fellowship funds to campus-based summer research internships for students from non-Indiana minority-serving institutions. A second commitment is to directly support undergraduate students in hands-on, campus-based summer research internships aligned with ongoing faculty and NASA mission-related project research. In addition, INSGC has committed to a project emphasis on coordinated student project partnership programs with other consortia in the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.

2.3. The Innovative Mars Exploration Education & Technology (IMEET)

This program is a two-week collaborative summer day camp offered at three Georgia Space Grant Consortium (GSGC) affiliate locations across Georgia (Georgia Tech., the Coca-Cola Space Science Center at Columbus State University, and the Museum of Aviation) where high school and two-year technical college students work together in teams to design and manufacture collaborative components of ground and aerial robots with a mission to assist operations on Mars exploration missions.

3. Opportunities

This program will be able to bring about
  • 7 Educational and outreach programs and accommodate
  • Multiple transition opportunities to industry and government labs
  • 1.5 Postdoctoral researchers
  • 24 Ph. D. & M. S. Students
  • 20 Undergraduate students
  • 50 Summer camp K-12 teachers and students