The College of Engineering K12 Outreach Educational Programs recently received $192,836 as part of the National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant for NEXUS in Nevada. The NEXUS program facilitates research and education in the efficient use of water and environmentally friendly solar power. For the K-12 Outreach Programs, the funding will increase outreach opportunities in rural parts of the state by enabling the development and expansion of solar and water education lessons.
“We have never been able to do lessons in solar energy at this level,” College of Engineering Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator Meg Fitzgerald said. “It is exciting, because the state of Nevada has 250 days of sunshine a year, so it has the potential to be a major supplier of sustainable energy.”
Recognizing the importance of inspiring the youngest students in the state, the College of Engineering K-12 programs coordinate with local teachers and schools to provide a diverse slate of hands-on educational experiences. The Mobile Engineering Education Lab brings University of Nevada, Reno STEM Outreach Ambassadors—undergraduate and, beginning next year, graduate Engineering students—to elementary classrooms across the state to teach lessons, while the MESA program promotes STEM education with middle and high school students from low-income or underrepresented groups.
“Our programs connect students at the earliest stage possible to engineering concepts, making them aware of the opportunities available to them,” Fitzgerald said. “The funding from this grant will allow us to expand the types of lessons we offer and the number of lessons we offer, while also expanding the geographic area we can serve.”
Benefits for All & Collaboration with NevadaTeach
While the primary purpose of the K-12 programs is the inspiration and education of elementary, middle and high school students, the STEM Outreach Ambassadors themselves have opportunities to increase their subject mastery.
“The lessons allow the Ambassadors to be exposed to concepts outside their field of study,” Fitzgerald said. “It broadens their knowledge and awareness of how to work better in other fields of engineering outside their comfort zone.”
The lessons taught in the K-12 programs are primarily designed and delivered by undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Engineering. To ensure the lessons are grade-level appropriate and pedagogically sound, the programs have partnered with NevadaTeach, which pairs Master Teachers with students pursuing dual majors in STEM fields and secondary education. The grant will provide funding to hire NevadaTeach students to work more closely on the lessons and with the engineering students.