A successful pre-college nanotechnology experience for low-income students (evaluation)
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In three years, the Nanotechnology Center at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez Campus (UPRM) has impacted with science and engineering activities a total of 1,512 Hispanic pre-college students (967 female students) from 23 low-income public schools. Socioeconomic data from the Puerto Rico Department of Education show that, on average, 73% of the participating students belong to low-serving communities under the poverty level. This pre-college program promotes and supports Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) Clubs at middle and high schools with a myriad of individualized activities in Materials Science, Nanotechnology and Engineering. Each club hosts four annual visits from the Nanotechnology Center’s students and faculty, who deliver hands-on activities on applications of nanotechnology and materials science concepts. Two annual events crown the intervention: a) an annual club meeting at the university campus, and b) a Nanodays event, where each club conducts nanotechnology demonstrations at their own schools. Furthermore, a group of high school students and teachers is selected to participate in a 4-week Summer Research Program, in the Center’s laboratories. College admissions data show that 75% (N=12) of the research summer program participants and 42% of students admitted from schools with MSE clubs have enrolled at UPRM, with a 94% second-year retention rate. For the schools with MSE clubs, between 49% and 75% of students who chose to major in Science, Engineering or Technology programs were active MSE Club members. The present work describes the structure and activities of the pre-college program, and presents the model for the annual club meeting and the summer program with corresponding assessment results.