Xavier University of Louisiana, in collaboration with the Institute of Earth Science Research and Education (IESRE) run the ECoSTEM project. This project aims to improve the quality of undergraduate STEM education by introducing a computational, community-oriented component into STEM programs at Xavier University. Specifically, undergraduate students develop microcontroller-based systems for collecting airborne particulate data. They work with public school teachers (and their students) and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) officers to deploy the sensors at locations around New Orleans and to analyze the resulting data. Airborne particulates are often the pollutant of greatest concern in minority and other underserved communities. This project provide undergraduates at Xavier and the local teachers (and their students) with learning experiences that are relevant to them and their communities. ECoSTEM uses a tiered mentoring system in which the project team members mentor undergraduates, who in turn work with public school teachers and mentor their students. Research has shown positive effects from student involvement in such real-world, personally relevant STEM projects, including increases in student interest in STEM-related careers after graduation. As a result, the project has the potential to broaden student interest in STEM and increase pursuit of STEM-related majors.
David Brooks, IESRE