$2 Million Award from the NSF Tops the List of New ECST Grants

illustration if several tangles light bulbs hanging unlit, and one with a straight cord shining bright
Illustration: IR Stone

NSF Grant of $2 Million Will Fund Research to Improve Undergraduate STEM Education

ECST Professor of Civil Engineering Gustavo Menezes has been awarded a $2 million grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to design a model of STEM teaching and learning that facilitates learning for all students regardless of their backgrounds. The model involves establishing a healthy ecosystem that nurtures students, faculty, and staff to become individuals fulfilled professionally and personally. Based on evidence-based approaches to organizational and systemic change, the model is intended for use by educational institutions that serve high numbers of Hispanic, first-generation, and other underserved students.

Guided by the aim of “meeting students where they are,” the model will seek to 1) shift the mental model of faculty; 2) develop the capacity of department chairs and program coordinators; and 3) reform the teaching evaluation system to promote a culture of reflection and self-improvement. The last step is critical to removing institutional barriers and creating a healthy ecosystem that is sustainable.

According to Professor Menezes, “The proposed project has the potential to transform the model of STEM education to one that leverages the assets of all agents, including students, faculty and staff, leading to more underrepresented minority students reaching the STEM workforce.”

Separately, Professor Menezes and ECST Professor of Mechanical Engineering Arturo Pacheco-Vega were awarded a $100,000 INCLUDES Planning Grant from NSF to build a framework for creating robust undergraduate research programs and a pool of research-ready underrepresented minority undergraduate students. For the planning grant, Cal State LA will serve as the anchor institution with the University of New Mexico, the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez Campus, and the City College of New York. Outcomes of the grant are expected to lay a foundation for a future national alliance, center, or network to continue work on the challenge.

Boeing Global Engagement Fund Awards $50,000 for Women in STEM

Boeing Global Engagement Fund awarded ECST $50,000 for use in the College’s summer LAunchPad program for high school girls and to develop our Engineering Ambassadors program. The award will enable us to increase our capacity to build relationships with high schools. This gift highlights the longstanding relationship between ECST and the Boeing Company. The program will be managed by Daniel Galvan, Director of Acceleration Initiatives and Student Engagement, and Thelma Federico, ECST Outreach Coordinator.

Xilinx Grant Will Fund New Initiative to Promote Women in STEM

ECST has won a $45,000 grant that also includes in-kind materials from Silicon Valley-based Xilinx Inc. to create the Xilinx Women in Technology (WIT) BioEngineering Women Innovators (BE WINNORS) Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to promote the success of college-level women in engineering and computer science fields and attract high school-level women into these fields by engaging them in projects with biomedical applications.

At the college-level, BE WINNORS will target first-generation sophomore-, junior-, and senior-level female engineering majors. BE WINNORS students will engage in in medical robotics and mobile health projects and serve as role models for high school students. At the high school-level, BE WINNORS will develop programming to attract females from feeder high schools to apply to ECST and major in Computer Science or Electrical and Computer Engineering. 

Deborah Won, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and the Principal Investigator for the BE WINNORS initiative, will co-lead this effort with ECE Professors Curtis Wang and Charles Liu and Computer Science Professor Navid Amini. Said Won, “The BE WINNORS program will provide opportunities for female engineering students to immerse themselves in innovative biotech projects that use Xilinx field programmable gate arrays and develop a sense of belonging amongst a community of female engineers and computer scientists.”

Xilinx, located in San Jose, California, is the inventor of field programmable gate arrays, which drive rapid innovation across a wide span of industries and technologies.

Capstone Senior Design Partners Step Up During Pandemic

Even during the pandemic, ECST’s partners continue their strong support for the College’s Capstone Senior Design program. During the 2020-2021 academic year, over 70 Capstone projects are underway.

Despite the challenges of learning and working remotely, the breadth of Capstone topics remains vast. Some students are working on green energy problems with Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas. Others are working with local entrepreneurs and companies on projects as diverse as an application to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress and programming a drone to fly autonomously.

We are pleased to recognize and thank our loyal and generous supporters, including Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas, each contributing $50,000 to the Capstone program, as well as Raytheon and QTC. We also extend our appreciation to the many other organizations providing technical liaisons that give Capstone students access to invaluable real-world insights. These include The Aerospace Corporation, JPL, MathWorks, SAYA Life, and AT&T.