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This summer, the return to an in-person NM PREP Academy gave middle and high school students the opportunity to explore the fields of engineering and introductory engineering concepts through real-world projects at New Mexico State University. The program also provided NMSU College of Engineering faculty a chance to obtain broader impact assistance for research grants.
“The STEM Studio in the College of Engineering is a unique living-laboratory that serves as a test bed for innovative and creative educational strategies to bridge the gap between teaching and learning,” said Patricia Sullivan, associate dean for Outreach and Recruitment. “Broadening participation in STEM requires more than just the curriculum. Our experience has shown that effective engagement requires intentional strategies that expose students to relevant and relatable applications of math and science through innovative and traditional engineering and technology methods. This early exposure also fosters career-minded outcomes, with current data showing 18% of first-time freshmen engineering students having been actively engaged in one of our STEM outreach programs prior to entering NMSU.”
This summer, the NM PREP Academy students worked with engineering faculty members, Associate Professor Catie Brewer from Chemical and Materials Engineering, Assistant Professor Ehsan Dehghan-Niri from Civil Engineering, Professor Delia Julieta Valles-Rosales from Industrial Engineering, and Associate Professor Wei Tang from the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who have National Science Foundation grants.
“Every NSF grant has the potential to not only advance knowledge, but benefit society—what we call broader impacts. Just like the kaleidoscopic nature of science, broader impacts come in many forms. No matter the method, however, broader impacts ensure all NSF-funded science works to better our world,” according to the NSF website.
“Faculty focus their efforts on developing innovative and engaging STEM-based activities that ensures content knowledge and relevance to strengthen the learning experience,” Sullivan said.
The NM PREP Academy also hosted a visiting scholar from Iowa State University, who traveled to Las Cruces to learn more about NMSU’s STEM outreach programming and its ties with faculty to meet the broader impact criteria. Leadership and Graduation Attainment Program Leader at ISU J. Eliseo De León said he was pleased with the knowledge he learned from the College of Engineering’s Office of Outreach and Recruitment during his visit.
“The NM PREP Academy offers its students an education by research professionals that they may otherwise not receive until they are college age,” De León said. “By participating in the NM PREP Academy, youth have the opportunity to learn about recycling of paper, what is involved in 3D printing from producing the raw material to producing a final part, what it takes to design and program using CAD, and a number of other real-life skills workshops. I hope to take some of the lessons, ideas and tools that the NM PREP Academy uses to serve New Mexico residents and share them with the youth in Iowa.”
Additionally, the NM PREP Academy students are being assessed for learning outcomes by NMSU’s Southwest Outreach Academic Research Center Evaluation and Policy Center with outcomes contributing to research by the engineering faculty and the Office of Outreach and Recruitment.
Since 2016, the Office of Outreach and Recruiting has hosted the NM PREP Middle School Academy and NM PREP High School Academy. This summer, the program returned to the Las Cruces campus as a commuter event and added a program near the San Ildefonso Pueblo in northern New Mexico, as well as a virtual option.
To learn more about engineering STEM programs, visit https://engrnm.nmsu.edu/stem-connection.