Broadening participation in S&E

Last
year, NSF issued its first grants for NSF INCLUDES, a major addition to our
portfolio of programs that seek to broaden participation in science and
engineering (S&E). In January, I had a chance to meet with the
recipients of those grants at our first meeting for principal investigators.

NSF
INCLUDES
 is based on a simple idea: Identify proven, innovative ideas
that create access to science and engineering for groups traditionally
underrepresented in those fields, and then scale up those ideas to help more
people. The program will accomplish this goal by building alliances, networks
and partnerships among those committed to broadening participation.

We
took our first big step with NSF INLCUDES in 2016, awarding 40 Design and Development Launch Pilots. The launch pilot awardees
will play a critical role in laying the foundation for NSF INCLUDES, setting
the standard for how this program moves forward.

NSF INCLUDES aims to ensure that all Americans, no matter
who they are or where they come from, have access to opportunities in science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM). Black History Month is an excellent time to
look at some of the NSF INCLUDES-funded projects that focus on improving STEM
access for African Americans, a population currently
underrepresented
in S&E. All of these projects embody key elements of
NSF INCLUDES’ approach.

image

Photo credit: Margaret Honey, Designing for Diversity

For example, Designing for
Diversity
works to establish a national network of makerspaces and fabrication
laboratories specializing in computational programs for black and Latino high
school students. The project’s partners identify the most promising ways to
design computational making programs with the goal of inspiring and encouraging
young people to pursue STEM education and careers.

The project has a wide variety of collaborators, including the
New York Hall of Science and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Teaching, as well as a national leadership team representing universities, businesses,
cultural organizations, foundations and leaders in the maker movement.

An NSF INCLUDES grant to the National Society of Black
Engineers supports the 50K Coalition, a
collaborative of more than 40 organizations committed to increasing the number
of bachelor’s degrees awarded annually to women and minorities from 30,000 to
50,000 by 2025. Other partners include the American Indian Science and
Engineering Society, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the
Society of Women Engineers. 

NSF also issued an INCLUDES award to Tuskegee University, a
historically black university
, in support
of the South
East Alliance for Persons with Disabilities in STEM
. The project, which builds
on the NSF-funded Alabama Alliance for Students with Disabilities in STEM, aims
to scale up regional efforts to help students with disabilities, a group historically underrepresented in STEM. Developed in partnership with Auburn
University, Alabama State University and Vanderbilt University, the project will
create a regional network of 21 colleges and universities, joined by community
colleges and high schools. As Mohammed Qazi, mathematics professor at Tuskegee,
says, the project partners at each of the four pilot sites “will implement
mentoring strategies that were instrumental in preparing students with
disabilities in STEM who are underrepresented minorities at Tuskegee University.”

Each
of these projects reflects NSF’s efforts to transform the S&E fields so
they are fully and truly inclusive. This will ensure that we embrace the many
brilliant minds that can and will contribute to the innovations and discoveries
of the future. National efforts to accomplish this goal are vital to our
citizenry, our economy, our workforce and our standing as a global leader.