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  1. Abstract Since 2009, the mechanical engineering (ME) scholarship-science technology engineering and mathematics (S-STEM) Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) has provided financial support and program activities to ME undergraduate students aiming at improving their retention and graduation rates. The objective of this study is to identify program activities that were most effective to help students for improvements. Current ME S-STEM scholars were asked to complete a survey that measures their scientific efficacy, engineering identity, expectations, integration, and sense of belonging, as well as how program activities impact their attitudes and perceptions. Analyses of 36 collected surveys showed that scholars reported high levels of engineering identity, expectations, and sense of belonging. However, further improvements were needed to help students in achieving scientific efficacy and academic integration into the program. Results demonstrated that pro-active mentoring was the most effective method contributing to positive attitudes and perceptions. The implemented S-STEM research-related activities and internship were viewed favorably by the scholars in helping them establish their scientific efficacy and engineering identity, and understand their expectations and goals. Community building activities were considered helpful for them to integrate into campus life and improve their sense of belonging to the campus and program.more »Scholars identified mentoring, research related activities, internships, and social interaction with faculty and their peers as important factors for their retention and graduation. Although the sample size was small in the study, we believe that the cost-effective activities identified could be adopted by other institutions to further improve students' retention and graduation rates in engineering programs.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  2. Abstract The objectives of this study were to evaluate the current status of exposure to bio-engineering research in community college (CC) students and University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) students, and to estimate relationships between research activities sponsored by the Mechanical Engineering (ME) S-STEM Scholarship Program and improvement in student enrollment/diversification, retention rates, and graduation rates. The analysis drew on data from ME undergraduate academic records at UMBC from 2008 to 2019. A survey was designed to assess the research exposure of CC and UMBC students and their evaluation of the research components included in recruitment and curriculum activities. Results show that exposure to research measured by attending a research seminar was low for the participants, around 37% for CC students and 21% for ME students at UMBC. The survey results indicate the positive impact of the scholarship programs at UMBC on the research exposure and research experience. The impact is more evident in students who originally transferred from a CC. The large increase in recruited female and CC students over the past 10 years indicated that the research-related activities of the ME S-STEM program played an instrumental role in those increases. Because of the research-related activities, the ME S-STEM programmore »achieved retention and graduation rates higher than those in the ME undergraduate program (89% versus 60% for the 6 year graduation rate), as well a higher percentage of students enrolled in graduate school (30% versus 10%). We conclude that there is still a need to implement research-related activities in the ME undergraduate program, starting with student recruitment and continuing through the academic program. Results suggest that there is a positive impact of ME S-STEM research activities on student diversification, retention rates, and percentage of our graduates who are pursuing graduate degree.« less
  3. This work presents an energy efficient technique for fabricating flexible thermoelectric generators while using printable ink. We have fabricated thermoelectric composite thick films using two different mesh sizes of n-type bismuth particles, various binder to thermoelectric material weight ratios, and two different pressures, 200 MPa and 300 MPa, in order to optimize the thermoelectric properties of the composite films. The use of chitosan dissolved in dimethylsulfoxide with less than 0.2 wt. % of chitosan, the first time chitosan has been used in this process, was sufficient for fabricating TE inks and composite films. Low temperature curing processes, along with uniaxial pressure, were used to evaporate the solvent from the drop-casted inks. This combination reduced the temperature needed compared to traditional curing processes while simultaneously increasing the packing density of the film by removing the pores and voids in the chitosan-bismuth composite film. Microstructural analysis of the composite films reveals low amounts of voids and pores when pressed at sufficiently high pressures. The highest performing composite film was obtained with the weight ratio of 1:2000 binder to bismuth, 100-mesh particle size, and 300 MPa of pressure. The best performing bismuth chitosan composite film that was pressed at 300 MPa had amore »power factor of 4009 ± 391 μW/m K2 with high electrical conductivity of 7337 ± 522 S/cm. The measured thermal conductivity of this same sample was 4.4 ± 0.8 W/m K and the corresponding figure of merit was 0.27 at room temperature.« less