In addition to research, our group participates in several activities that are specifically focused on bringing young people (K-12), their educators and people from underrepresented groups into our lab and providing them opportunities for hands-on learning. Some of these activities are outlined below, but by no means is this an exhaustive list.
The UConn RET “Joule Fellows” program exposes teachers to concepts in engineering over a six week summer internship program. The teachers also take courses that are related to technology development and translating their research experience into classroom material. During the six week program, the visitors concurrently work in faculty laboratories where they take an active role in ongoing research projects. Prof. Mustain has had one fellow in his lab each year since 2010.
UConn Mentor Connection
The UConn Mentor Connection program, organized by the UConn School of Engineering, brings high school students to the UConn campus for a three week research experience where the student works side-by-side with faculty and graduate students. The purpose of the UConn Mentor Connection program is to expose rising juniors and seniors, with an emphasis on students from underrepresented groups, to research and to increase awareness of career opportunities. All students hone their technical creativity by working on open ended problems, and work in diverse groups, helping to break down cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic barriers. Professor Mustain has personally led activities for two summers. One of the favorite among the students is the investigating the results from a laboratory-constructed “ionic footbath”. Picture below!
McNair Scholars Program
The McNair Scholars Program focuses on preparing under-privileged and under-represented students for graduate school in the STEM disciplines. Our group just joined this program in 2014 as a strategic expansion of our outreach. McNair Scholars begin their journey shadowing graduate students in faculty labs in their first year. The next two years, the McNair Scholars work side-by-side with graduate students and faculty on research projects with the goal of preparing these (mostly) first generation college students for graduate school.
GK-12 Fellowship Program
The GK-12 (Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education) program is an innovative educational program sponsored by the National Science Foundation that aims to provide teaching resources (in the form of graduate students in the engineering sciences) to classrooms in the state of Connecticut Technical High School System. In short, Ph.D. students participating in the program spend one day per week at a technical high school for 1-2 years, interacting with high school students, and helping them with fun projects such as building matchbox cars, rockets, wind turbines, etc. The GK-12 Fellows also give lectures about college preparation, including how to select a college, what exams to take, how to get financial aid, etc.
The UConn iREU uniquely targets students who have an entrepreneurial spirit. This NSF-funded REU (PI: Jeff McCutcheon) combines hands-on engineering training, company interaction, and business workshops that allows undergraduate students to not only hone their technical skill, but to improve networking and their understanding of how ideas are conceived, developed and marketed into commercial products. Prof. Mustain has hosted an iREU student each of the past three years.