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Visual qualitative methodologies enhance the richness of data and makes participants experts on the object of interest. Visual data brings another dimension to the evaluation process, besides surveys and interviews, as well as depth and breadth to participants reactions to specific program activities. Visual data consists of images, such as photos, drawings, artwork, among others. Exploring a different approach to assess impact of an educational activity, an exercise was designed where participants were asked to take photos to document a site visit to an area impacted by a swarm of earthquakes in 2019. The exercise required taking five photos of either objects, persons, scenery, structures, or any other thing that captured their attention during the visit and write a reflective essay to answer three questions: 1) How do these photos represent your site visit experience? 2) Based on the content of your photos, write about what you learned, discovered, new knowledge acquired, emotions, changes in your way of thinking, etc., and 3) What did you learned or discovered from doing this exercise? Twenty-two undergraduate engineering and architecture students from the RISE-UP Program, enrolled in a curricular sequence in design and construction of resilient and sustainable structures, completed the exercise. Analyses of obtained data includes frequency of captured images and content analysis of reflective essays to determine instances where each of the four proposed learning objectives was present. Results show that across essays, 32% of the essays include text that demonstrate impact related to the first objective, 59% for the second, 73% for the third, and 86% for the fourth objective. Forty-five percent of essays included text considered relevant but not related to an objective. Personal, social, and career insights were categorized as unintended results. Photos taken by students represent what they considered relevant during the visit and also evidence the achievement of the proposed learning objectives. In general, three mayor categories emerged from the content in photos: 1) photos related to the design and construction of the structure and specific damage observed from earthquakes; 2) photos of classmates, professors, and group activities; and 3) other photos that do not share a theme. Both photos and essays demonstrate that the learning objectives were successfully achieved and encourage the use of visual data as an alternative for the evaluation of educational activities.more » « lessFree, publicly-accessible full text available June 25, 2024
This paper discusses the implementation of an introductory course to engineering established to provide students with knowledge about the roles of engineers, the engineering method, ethics, teamwork, and detailed information about each of the engineering majors offered in the College of Engineering (CoE) of the host institution. The course is offered as part of a larger initiative seeking to improve success indicators among low-income students. This paper provides details about the course structure, implementation context, metrics, and results measured via descriptive statistics among participant students. The results of a longitudinal implementation, suggest that early provision of career information and awareness can impact the engineering retention and persistence of students and their interest in their chosen majors, particularly in educational settings where students declare their major on the entrance to their first year.more » « lessFree, publicly-accessible full text available June 25, 2024
Improving the level of success of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines has been a prevailing concern for higher education institutions for many years. To address this challenge, a pilot initiative has been implemented with engineering students at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, a recognized Hispanic-serving institution. Over the past four years, the Program for Engineering Access, Retention, and LIATS Success (PEARLS) has brought in an innovative intervention model that combines elements from socio-cognitive career theories and departure studies to impact students' success. PEARLS has established a comprehensive range of tools and services, including mentorship, professional readiness training, research opportunities, scholarships, and peer mentor activities. These efforts have led to impressive outcomes, including a significant increase in retention and persistence rates, increased graduation rates having quad-fold those observed in the general student population, and an impressive record of engagements in industry, research, and leadership experiences. This paper discusses the program structure and outcomes from five perspectives that include background experiences, the structure of provided services, the results of their execution, the elements of knowledge derived from its application, and the challenges experienced throughout its implementation.more » « lessFree, publicly-accessible full text available June 25, 2024
The academic preparation of scholars on infrastructure-related disciplines often takes place within isolated professional domains, rarely embracing an interdisciplinary approach for problem solving. The current work describes the implementation and outcomes from an undergraduate program designed to increase students’ awareness and knowledge of infrastructure vulnerabilities to students pursuing engineering and architecture degrees. The program, titled “Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainability Education -Undergraduate Program” utilizes the devastation from Hurricanes Irma and María for implementing an interdisciplinary case study methodology to understand and generate solutions to a variety of complex infrastructure challenges in a real-life setting. Project Based Learning (PBL) constitutes the theoretical model that frames this study. The sample included 23 undergraduate students, from architecture and engineering, and from three different campuses. All students completed a course sequence of 15 credits in design and construction of resilient and sustainable infrastructure. The results indicate that the program outcomes were achieved: development of interdisciplinary research skills and project design, hands-on solutions for real problems, awareness of human factors on project design, understanding of the importance and contribution of different disciplines and perspectives, and most important, developing the interest of putting into practice learned knowledge and skills in future projects. Students internalized the value of sustainability and resilience, in their coursework and future professionals, but also personally, applying these principles in their daily life. Students reported that their initial expectations about the program were either achieved or exceeded what they had foreseen. They considered a strength having three campuses and several disciplines working collaboratively.more » « less