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NSF's Broadening Participation Impacts


This page features impacts from NSF's broadening participation programs. In addition you can find more impacts on the Louis Stokes Midwest Regional Center of Excellence website, which features impacts from Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) awards.

International Collaboration with Mexico to Develop and Test a Transparent Cranial Implant


The PIRE:SOMBRERO project is an interdisciplinary, international collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico to develop and test a transparent cranial implant based on a novel transparent ceramic material. Altogether, this project involves 9 co-PIs with their corresponding laboratories.  After 5 years, the 6 laboratories on the U.S. side have provided research opportunities for 12 PhD students, 38 Undergraduates, 2 Postdocs, and a Research Staff member, including 22 women and 13 students of URM status; on the Mexican side, the other 3 laboratories have provided opportunities for 12 PhD students, 11 MS students, 6 Undergraduates, 3 Postdocs, and a Research Staff member, broadening the participation of under-represented students in science and engineering, and becoming an excellent recruitment and outreach venue to entice new students to join.



Backpack Laboratory Program Advances Workforce Development

Student working on simulation programming project.  

An NSF Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) award "Building Field-based Ecophysiological Genome-to-Phenome Prediction" is a collaborative effort among Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, and Langston University. The project is developing new ways to model and predict important crop production traits in wheat through the production of mathematical models that combine observational data collected through Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, environmental instrumentation, and robots plus genetics data. One of the project's broadening participation endeavors is to provide students from Langston University, a Historically Black University in Oklahoma, with backpacks containing equipment and software to study and monitor wheat plants grown wherever they are sheltering during the Covid-19 pandemic. The students first learn how to program microcontrollers to interact with sensors to collect images and environmental data such as temperature, humidity, soil moisture, and light intensity. The students then use this data in the context of further virtual instruction to work with simulation models of the wheat plants themselves.



Morgan State University Leads Project to Train Minorities for Smart Cities Research

Student working on engineering project.  

The Smart City REU/RET trains students and teachers in a variety of cutting edge technologies related to research in Smart and Connected Cities. The program is designed to increase the number of highly qualified and prepared under-represented minority engineers. In addition, the program aims to develop stronger collaborations with STEM teachers at community colleges and high schools to improve the quality of STEM education. Participants work side-by-side with leading researchers across multiple institutions with projects relating to the Internet of Things Security, Energy Storage Systems, Nanomaterials and Sensor Networks, Smart Grid Systems, and Materials Research. This program offers an excellent opportunity for students to explore various electrical and computer engineering research topics while gaining experience in the process of conducting research. Teachers get exposed to various engineering topics and hands-on projects that they can leverage to enhance their class activities to better inspire their students to pursue careers in electrical and computer engineering.





Two disabled students working on a computer project.  

AccessCSforAll works to increase the successful participation of students with disabilities in K-12 computing. K-12 students with disabilities enrolled in computing courses may encounter tools and curricula that are inaccessible to screen readers used by students who are blind or have reading-related disabilities such as dyslexia. Content embedded in images without text-based alternatives accessible by screen readers also creates barriers. Students who are deaf require captions or transcriptions of audio content and students with disabilities can benefit from curricular features that facilitate access to them. Access CSForAll provides real-time support to teachers nationally who encounter a student with a disability when teaching AP Computer Science Principles or any other computer science course.




REU Site Provides Programs for Adults and Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ASPIRE faculty teaching student with ADHD.  

Supported by NSF’s Division of Engineering Education and Centers, this REU site is directed by NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program awardee Dr. Arash Zaghi to provide undergraduate students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with interdisciplinary research experience in the cyber and physical security aspects of critical infrastructure resilience. These students are severely underrepresented and underserved in engineering programs and at risk of academic failure. This REU site at the University of Connecticut benefits the participating students by providing a positive research and education experience that cultivates their highly desirable assets (e.g., creative problemsolving and risk-taking abilities) and encourages them to continue in engineering careers. This effort is changing the education paradigm from deficit–based to strength– based and make engineering education more inclusive of diverse learning and thinking styles. The effort also engages K-12 teachers and high school students with ADHD (who are at a higher risk for dropping out) in a two-week summer program that actively involves them in engineering research and development activities.




Active Societal Participation In Research and Education (ASPIRE)

The ASPIRE team doing field research in the water.  

Active Societal Participation In Research and Education (ASPIRE) cultivates a generation of geoscientists with the leadership knowledge and skills to reframe the geosciences as socially relevant and thereby broaden participation in these fields. This generation of geoscientists will do so by using place-based science as a vehicle to bridge long-standing divides that impede access to and inclusion in the geosciences. To bring about change, the project draws upon, refines and institutionalizes the working group model as the Mobile Working Group (MWG), directly referencing the need to move outside of the “ivory tower” and into the community. Led by a geoscientist with one foot in the academy and the other in the community - the Gateopener - each MWG focuses on a single issue linked to a single community. ASPIRE supports multiple MWGs working across the geographic, ethnographic and “in practice” community space, as well as across the body of geoscience research and application.



The BioBus Initiative


The mission of the BioBus initiative is to help minority, female and low-income K-12 and college students in New York City discover, explore and pursue science. The BioBus brings top-tier science education to the doorstep of students, with a focus on underresourced and high-poverty communities. Equipped with over $100K in research-grade microscopes and a troop of Ph.D. scientists, the BioBus has completed over 1,000 active teaching days, worked with over 150,000 students and engaged over 500 schools and community organizations. Through this work, BioBus has made a marked difference in the lives of students, parents and educators, bringing enthusiasm for discovery, heightened academic engagement and increased interest in STEM career paths. Survey results and conversations with parents confirm that many students experience a dramatic positive shift in their attitudes towards science as a result of participating in BioBase courses.



Chicago Alliance For Equity in Computer Science (CAFECS)

An African American and a Hispanic/Latina girl working on computers.  

The Chicago Alliance For Equity in Computer Science (CAFECS) ensures that all Chicago Pubic School students have access to inclusive, high-quality, introductory computer science education in high school. CAFECS provides sufficient support to teachers and holds all schools accountable for offering high-quality computer science across the entire district. CAFECS empowers at least 25,000 Chicago teens with the foundational practices of computer science. Woven into the ECS curriculum are activities that address ethical issues, critical analysis of data and connection with community, issues that all contribute to developing informed citizens of this increasingly digital society.



Indigenous Women Working within the Sciences (IWWS)

Native American Young Woman working on science project.  

Through Northern Michigan University’s Center for Native American Studies, the Indigenous Women Working within the Sciences (IWWS) project seeks to improve the performance of American Indian high school students in STEM by advancing indigenous knowledge, instructional pedagogy and practices. The project team works to pilot activities and coursework to train K-16 STEM educators about American Indian inclusive methods and materials; provides American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) high school students with STEM college preparatory experience using inclusive STEM practices; and provides a cohort of female AIAN high school students with additional university experiences and mentors as these students transition to postsecondary education. Activities include a summer educators institute and workshops for K-16 STEM educators; a summer STEM academy for AIAN high school students; a STEM workshop for female AIAN high school students; and a mentoring program for AIAN high school students.



SD Printing Training for the Visually Impaired

Professor helping visually impaired students work on computers.  

The Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired (LSVI) presents a seminar series where faculty bring a tactile item relating to their research. The Consortium for Innovation in Manufacturing and Materials has also coordinated with two female engineering students at Louisiana State University to work with the staff of LSVI in training them on a curriculum to utilize their 3D printer to print eyeglass frames for the students. The student’s proposal, “Procedural Study of Additive Manufacturing Eyeglasses for Visually-Impaired Students,” was awarded an NSF Summer Undergraduate Research Experience grant sponsored by the Louisiana Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and the Louisiana Board of Regents.



People with Disabilities Achieving Career Employment (PACE) program

Researcher in wheelchair working on an engineering project.  

The People with Disabilities Achieving Career Employment (PACE) program, centered at the University of Pittsburgh Human Engineering Research Laboratories, designs, develops and delivers an experiential curriculum tailored for veterans and people with disabilities. It also offers guidance to academic institutions and employers about making accommodations for individuals with disabilities in their advanced manufacturing programs. PACE’s curriculum prepares students with orthopedic, neurological or cognitive impairments to become manufacturing technicians. Each module is taught by a different instructor. This exposes students to various instruction and management styles as well as workplace expectations.



Sharing a Passion for Science Across a Community

Bio-inspired Materials and Systems PIRE Team

Every year on MLK Day, the Bio-inspired Materials and Systems PIRE program partners with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to provide a day filled with STEM demonstrations and hands-on experiments. This "free" day with no school and no entrance fees makes this event accessible to everyone in the greater Cleveland community. Graduate students from across the PIRE sites travel to Cleveland to conduct the demonstrations. Pre-schoolers smash gummy bears that have been frozen in liquid nitrogen, ten year olds explore cross-linked polymers by making bouncy balls, and older students learn how the natural world has inspired innovations that improve society. This event regularly attracts between 650-1000 participants.



Sparks for Change


The goal of the Sparks for Change project is to build a network of leaders in broadening participation, a collection of tested strategies for improving departmental support for broadening participation efforts, and geoscience departments that are better equipped to attract and retain underrepresented faculty and students. Ultimately, the program aims to foster a more diverse geoscience workforce. The Sparks for Change Institute supports and builds diversity for geoscience departments using small groups as change agents who enact departmental-level culture change that supports broadening participation. The institute holds workshops that bring together different institution types. Participants are provided with the leadership skills necessary to lead departmental culture change; opportunities for sharing broadening participation strategies; and support in developing individualized departmental plans for enacting change. Ongoing support, including personalized evaluation of efforts, development of resources and alliance building, will continue to empower the participants to enact change upon returning to their institution.



Teaching Through Technologies


The Teaching Through Technologies (T3) Alliance engages precollege students from underrepresented minority groups in after-school and intensive summer programs to teach them three emerging technologies – Raspberry Pi coding, 3D printers and autonomous systems (air, land and water). T3 is a hands-on curriculum led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks in close partnerships with the Council for Opportunities in Education, Educating4Leadership and Thrive Design Enterprises programs across the country supporting these technologies through curriculum adoption, growth mindset and design thinking. Using these newly acquired technologies and processing skills, the students identify and design a solution to a community issue.



Visual Learning Science


Researchers at Gallaudet University’s Visual Language and Visual Learning Science of Learning Center (VL2) have developed story book apps in American Sign Language (ASL). The apps include English translations and ASL dictionaries that allow deaf and hard-ofhearing children and their parents to read and learn together. The apps are also used by daycares and preschools to provide fun and engaging opportunities for children to improve their language learning whether deaf or hearing. Young and emerging deaf readers can watch stories in ASL or start reading it in English. At any point throughout the story in English, children can tap the screen to watch that part of the story in ASL. Children can also touch specific English words to see them finger-spelled, as well as being signed in ASL. Research suggests that visual language learning early in childhood leads to many cognitive and social benefits later. VL2 story apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store.





The goal of the WATCH:US project is to increase and diversify the number of professional mathematicians in the U.S. by identifying and proliferating best practices and known mechanisms for increasing the success of women in mathematics graduate programs, particularly women from underrepresented groups. In addition to the WomenDoMath website, the project supports mini-grants for local programs, as well as both exploratory and effectiveness research. Members of the project’s advisory board are affiliated with premier professional societies: the Association for Women in Mathematics, the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, the American Statistical Association, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the National Association of Mathematicians, and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native American in Science.




For further information concerning NSF's Broadening Participation programs, please contact:

Dr. Alicia J. Knoedler
National Science Foundation
Phone: 703-292-8040

Image Credits: (Top to Bottom) Ms. Asha Okora, Langston University, Dr. Fondjo Fotou, Franklin, Department of Technology, Langston University; Kofi Nyarko, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Morgan State University; Do-It, University of Washington; Arash Zaghi, University of Connecticut; Corey Garza, California State University, Monterey Bay; Purugganan Lab, New York University; Don Yanek, Office of Computer Science, Chicago Public Schools; NMU Center for Native American Studies; Heather Lavender, Louisiana State University; ATE Impacts 2018-2019; University Corporation for Atmospheric Research; John Monahan, University of Alaska, Matthew Kohashi, Visual Language and Visual Learning Center, Gallaudet University; The EDGE Foundation, Claremont, CA