Environmental Computing and Community Engagement in STEM education:
Building Effective and Sustainable Relationships.
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.