The objective of this paper is to outline the quick startup procedures involved in establishing a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site, and to detail year-one’s major activities, results, impressions, and lessons learned. The insights gained during year-one, are now being implemented to further improve the site operation and performance for a sustained and broader impact during the upcoming years.
The overarching goal of this site was to enhance the knowledge and skill-level of a diverse cohort of undergraduates with limited access to research opportunities, through empowering, hands-on and interdisciplinary research experiences in both traditional and advanced metrology and non-destructive inspection (NDI) technologies. Metrology, the science of measurement, and (non¬destructive) inspection transcends scales, materials, and disciplines; yet, rarely are its salient aspects emphasized. This site is a first-¬of-¬its-¬kind direct response to a specific concern raised by regional industry partners and technical workforce recruiters about the lack of pragmatic metrology/NDI-related knowledge and skills in their incoming regional workforce. For this, 5 vertically-integrated teams, each comprising of 2 REU students, 1 senior undergraduate and 1 graduate student (from the host institution) and a faculty mentor worked in concert on select research projects over 10 summer-weeks. Each REU student pair was recruited and matched based on complementing skills/interests. This on¬site experience was supplemented with follow-ups for continued interaction, growth, and guidance for pursuing advanced study. The overall impact of this site was to create empowered future researchers and a workforce well-rooted in metrology/NDI, and motivate them to pursue advanced degrees.
The PI’s experience of going through a quick startup and establishment of this site shed light on the strategies and essentials needed for generating a sufficient and diverse applicant pool, quick recruitment procedures, the logistics involved before, during and after the program, and the overall vision needed to provide a fruitful research experience to the visiting undergraduates. Evaluation mechanisms consisted of pre- and post- questionnaires, and the product deliverables. These provided invaluable insight into student impressions of the site performance, their own performance and related aspects of metacognition as well as the effectiveness of vertically-integrated teams, besides a confirmation and/or an invigorated intent to pursue advanced study and a career in STEM fields. Altogether, the experience and lessons learned from year-one has provided invaluable perception for imparting a broader impact through this NSF-REU site.
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