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Engineering | Undergraduate Research

REU in Engineering Education

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Within Dr. Verdín lab there are three projects an REU student can work on.

Project 1: Applying the Engineering Design Process to a Community Problem: A Summary Activity for Youth from migrant and seasonal farmworker communities

Dr. Verdín is developing a culturally relevant online engineering design activity for the Migratory Student Summer Academy (MSSA). MSSA is intended to enable high school youth from migratory or seasonal farmworker communities in the Yuma, Maricopa, and Pinal counties, to pursue higher education. The online activity Dr. Verdín is developing is intended to spark students’ interest in pursuing an engineering career. The activity will tackle a relevant issue migratory or seasonal farmworker communities face to demonstrate how students can use the engineering design process to solve a community problem. This research aims to 1) understand MSSA high school students’ interest and perceptions of themselves as STEM interested individuals and 2) understand how exposure to a culturally relevant engineering design activity supports students’ interest in engineering. REU students interested in working on this project will help Dr. Verdín pilot test the online activity and help with any modifications or changes based on pilot data results. REU students will also support Dr. Verdín with the data collection (i.e., results from survey questionnaires) once the activity goes live during the MSSA. The research team will also interview high school students participating in MSSA after the online engineering activity to understand the effect the activity’s context had on their interest in pursuing engineering and if they see engineering as a tool they can leverage to support their community’s needs. REU students interested in this project will learn how to conduct a focused literature review, discern the major components of a journal article focused on culturally relevant pedagogy and STEM interest development for adolescents.

Project 2: Investigating the conditions that promote or hinder engineering students’ sense of belonging in the classroom and discipline

Scholarship affirms that people are naturally drawn towards establishing and sustaining a sense of belonging; it has been described as a necessary human motivation. A sense of belonging is present in multiple domains, such as belonging to one’s university community and/or belonging in the classroom setting. The goal of this summer research project will be to understand the factors that promote or hinder a sense of belonging in the engineering classroom and the engineering discipline. The student working on this project will be given access to a dataset of 819 undergraduate students enrolled in ten four-year ABET-accredited universities. The students in the dataset are primarily underrepresented in engineering, including first in their families to attend college, Pell grant recipients, female and racial/ethnic minorities. The ENGagED-REU student working on this project will develop an understanding of how a sense of belonging in engineering can differ based on social identities and how factors that promote belongingness can vary based on students’ demographic backgrounds. ENGagED-REU students interested in this project will learn how to conduct a focused literature review, discern the major components of a journal article, and become immersed in the current conversation around belongingness. Additionally, this project will expose the student to statistical analysis methods such as t-tests, analysis of variance, and simple/multiple regression using R statistical language. No prior statistical analysis experience or programming experience is required. The student working on this project will learn how to apply statistical methods using R, interpret results, and communicate findings to a broader engineering education audience. Through a reflection of their own experience, the REU student will have the opportunity to offer educators strategies to promote belongingness in the classroom and the broader engineering campus community.

Project 3: Examining how first-generation college students’ funds of knowledge supports identification as an engineer

Engineering identity is conceptualized through three interrelated facets: interest in the subject, recognition by others as the type of person that can do engineering, and one’s beliefs in their performance/competence in engineering. The identity lens Dr. Verdín uses acknowledges that the development of an engineering identity is socially constructed. The enactment of an engineering identity requires that students perform their competence in the domain, through coursework, projects, activities, etc., and in turn, this performance is recognized as credible. The goal of this project will be to examine first-generation college student’s development of an engineering identity through the experiences and bodies of knowledge from their home and community. Bodies of knowledge are conceptualized as funds of knowledge. Funds of knowledge is a theoretical framework that acknowledges the rich experiences, resources, and knowledge working-class families possess as a result of their daily activities. Framing students’ lived experiences as rich with funds of knowledge rejects the notion that students’ households can be reduced to being economically poor and poor in terms of quality of experiences. Through ethnographic interview data of nine low-income first-generation college students, Dr. Verdín and collaborators developed a Funds of Knowledge Scale that captured ten important funds of knowledge constructs i.e., tinkering knowledge from home, tinkering knowledge from work, connecting experiences, networks from family members, networks from college friends, networks from coworkers, networks from neighborhood friends, perspective taking, reading people, and mediating ability. The ENGagED-REU student working on this project will be given access to a dataset with 380 first-generation college students enrolled in engineering programs across nine institutions. The REU student will learn how to conduct a focused literature review on funds of knowledge and identity development. Additionally, this project will expose the student to statistical analysis methods such as simple/multiple regression using R statistical language. No prior statistical analysis experience or programming experience is required. The REU student working on this project should be willing to learn how to apply simple statistical methods using R or SPSS, interpret results, and communicate their findings to a broader engineering education community.

Summer 2021, 40 hours/week

Stipend: $6,000

Eligibility: Engineering undergraduate student, U.S. citizens or permanent residents currently, Participants must be entering their second year or later, Must be willing to learn how to analyze data using basic statistical techniques, learn how to interpret research findings, conduct literature reviews, and situate findings within the broader engineering education conversation.

To apply: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSelJi6pq6MGBpOSuXZcKclmLbxlhZ_PPhBFXwTdGZjckl9x0A/viewform. Students interested in working on one of my three projects should specify my name on the application (i.e., Dr. Dina Verdin) and select my research project from the list of possible activities (i.e., “Engineering Funds of Knowledge”)

 

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