1. Mohamad Musavi
  2. Associate Dean of the College of Engineering
  4. University of Maine
  1. Allie Rowe
  2. Communications Coordinator
  4. University of Maine

NSF INCLUDES Collaborative: Creating a Diverse STEM Pathway with Community Wa...

NSF Awards: 1649346

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

Based at the University of Maine, the goal of the SMART INCLUDES pilot project is to form a multi-state collaborative and define the strategic plan for scale-up to a national alliance focused on broadening participation of underrepresented students in STEM. This collaborative of multiple and varied organizations will align to collectively contribute time and resources to a pre-college educational pathway that uses long-term community mentored student research in local water issues.

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Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase (13 posts)
  • Icon for: William McHenry

    William McHenry

    Executive Director
    May 15, 2017 | 11:26 a.m.



    The University of Main has a proved model for encouraging pre-college individuals from groups underrepresented in STEM to consider STEM majors by involving the pre-college students in UM’s EPSCoP research projects. I like the idea of providing the students with a project that they can continue after they return to their home communities. I am not sure why they had students speaking in foreign languages on their video and little data was presented in support of the model. This was a quality video. I think the scale-up strategy was innovative. What do you think?

  • Icon for: Allie Rowe

    Allie Rowe

    Communications Coordinator
    May 18, 2017 | 09:35 a.m.
    • Hi William! Thank you for this feedback on our video. Yes, your synopsis of our model is accurate!
    • Supporting students in researching water quality in their hometown watersheds is one of my favorite aspects of the program, too. Students we surveyed indicated that the experience of researching real issues facing their communities and helping to solve these local problems made them more likely to apply to STEM programs in college.
    • A former SMART student shot the end of the video, featuring students saying ‘water’ in their first languages, at our Summer Institute. It was meant to represent the universal challenge of water issues and importance of water research, as well as the project’s aim of including students from all backgrounds.
    • I apologize for the lack of data presented-- it was difficult to chose what to include in a short, 3-minute video. For these first three years of our project, an external evaluator measured our project’s impact by surveying students and teacher-mentors. The factors we measured amongst participating students include self-reported confidence in performing STEM-related tasks, confidence in taking STEM courses, and interest in pursuing a STEM major or career. For instance, last year, 83% of URM participants (n=18) and 71% of female participants (n=34) reported that the SMART program increased their interest in pursuing a STEM major or career. And while we cannot prove causation, 41% of SMART students are now accepted or enrolled in a STEM degree program (of approximately 125 currently college-eligible SMART students). In the future, we hope to use the S-STEM and T-STEM survey instruments to better measure confidence and attitudes towards STEM (http://miso.ncsu.edu/)...in other words, is our program empowering students and teachers to engage in STEM? We also want to start measuring activity (e.g. the quantity and quality of mentor/mentee interactions and participation in STEM-related activities). Let me know if you have any more questions, or if you’d like me to share more of the data we have collected!
  • Icon for: Allie Rowe

    Allie Rowe

    Communications Coordinator
    May 15, 2017 | 12:23 p.m.

    Hi all! Thank you for viewing our video! My name is Allie Rowe and I am serving as Communications Coordinator for this project. Our project seeks to broaden participation in STEM education with community water research. We welcome your questions and comments, and we look forward to joining you in discussion!

  • Icon for: Donna Charlevoix

    Donna Charlevoix

    Program Director
    May 15, 2017 | 01:11 p.m.

    Well done video! It's great that your INCLUDES award will help you scale up an existing, successful project. Can you talk about how you selected the locations where you are expanding nationally? I'm particularly interested because our project (see EarthConnections video) is engaging students in west Atlanta is a project focused on water. We're looking to connect students with community groups to help solve the very challenging problem of water quality in that area. It might be interesting to see if we can work together.  

  • May 15, 2017 | 01:30 p.m.

    We are in the process of developing a tool sequencing  that builds community to community site engagement and  have been collecting  data in Maine waters ...as well as in Central PA and FL ...besides our home base in NH.   I'd like to hear more from you both on the issues of risk management and also data organization for others to access for comparison purposes. 

  • Icon for: Allie Rowe

    Allie Rowe

    Communications Coordinator
    May 18, 2017 | 01:01 p.m.

    Dear Donna,

    • Thank you for your comment! So far, all our partnerships began with university faculty members or high school teachers contacting us because of an interest in implementing our model in their region, or with us identifying dedicated educators and reaching out to them. In other words, our strategy has been more about connecting with people than seeking out particular locations. That being said, our goal is to connect female, underserved and underrepresented students with supported and engaging STEM projects and mentors; therefore, it is a priority of ours to connect with partners in areas serving students from diverse backgrounds.
    • I remember your video from the Envisioning Impact video showcase; I am very impressed by the EarthConnections project! I was particularly struck by your well-conceived organizational structure–with a national leadership team and three regional alliances–and the fact that each regional alliance’s work begins with a community meeting.
    • I am excited that there might be an opportunity for us to work together, given that, as you mention, the Atlanta EarthConnections alliance is focusing on water, and more broadly, both our projects focus on connecting students to research on a locally-relevant challenge. We would love to speak with you to explore whether we can work together to serve the Atlanta community! Would you recommend that I email you and/or other project leaders to set up a conversation? Thanks!
  • May 15, 2017 | 12:39 p.m.


      I am interested in how Maine is engaging their communities beyond the school experiences...  and this IS an innovative approach that is definitely a great connection between many existing initiatives in New England!.

    Come visit our video.  Some of our continual data IS collected in Maine and shared with multiple states.   

    Betsy Stefany

  • Icon for: Allie Rowe

    Allie Rowe

    Communications Coordinator
    May 18, 2017 | 01:52 p.m.

    Dear Betsy,

    • Thank you so much for viewing our video and for your questions and comments. I just watched your video and found it very interesting! I am excited about the NH MSP; great work! I see that our projects share a focus on stream studies, a goal of integrating digital tools into water monitoring practices, and the use of engineering principles and skills.
    • With regards to risk management, what type of risk are you curious about? Risk of pollution in water sources? Risk of student injury while collecting stream data?
    • For data organization, in the past our students from schools all over the state of Maine have inputted their data into a Google Form that feeds into a shared Google Spreadsheet, which everyone can view but only program administrators can edit. This year, one of our students is creating a Google site with links to separate Google Spreadsheets for each participating school, so students can still view the work of other schools but won’t have to scroll through other schools’ data when trying to work with their own. We are also in the process of editing our website (https://umaine.edu/smart/) to include a blog where we will post updates of student activities beyond data collection, including research findings, presentations given, outreach work done in the community, etc. The hope is that this will reach a public audience, outside of the program. Finally, this year we are starting to reach out to local professionals in science and engineering, as well as community leaders, in order to enlist them as supportive stakeholders in the project. These stakeholders will be updated about student activities within the program.
    • I would love to hear more about your solutions to data organization/sharing. I’m sure we could learn from your project’s experience! How do you share the data your students collect to portions of local community outside of schools, to other geographic locations, and to the online community? Thanks!
  • Icon for: Jake Foster

    Jake Foster

    May 16, 2017 | 02:52 p.m.

    Great to see the sustained value water research has to get students excited and make connections to their lives. I appreciate the scale up into 8 states and the recognition that water issues are universal. What are the measures of success or impact for this project? Seems that there could be student measures, institutional change measures, and/or partnership measures that could be valuable.

  • Icon for: Allie Rowe

    Allie Rowe

    Communications Coordinator
    May 19, 2017 | 12:38 p.m.

    Hi Jake! Thank you for your excellent question.

    • Our project is updating its evaluation strategy this year. Moving forward, we will collect data on project success/impact from three groups of people: students, teachers, and administrators/partners.


    • For students, we will measure pre/post program confidence and attitudes towards STEM (using the S-STEM instrument, http://miso.ncsu.edu/), knowledge of the science and engineering of stormwater, quantity and quality of interactions with mentors and STEM role models, and level of participation in STEM-related activities.


    • From teachers, we will collect pre/post program confidence and attitudes, (using the T-STEM instrument), knowledge of science and engineering of stormwater, quantity and quality of interactions with mentees, and level of participation in our Teacher Professional Learning Community, which is a new addition to the program this year. We are also creating a survey to evaluate the effectiveness of this Teacher PLC.


    • From project administrators/partners, we are collecting a monthly reflection and recommendation survey, where we will ask what has been going well in partner interaction or program delivery, what could be improved, what might help support efforts, and what obstacles they face.


    • We welcome any suggestions for collecting the aforementioned data, and/or additional measures of success that you think would be valuable!
  • Icon for: Heidi Schweingruber

    Heidi Schweingruber

    May 16, 2017 | 09:30 p.m.

    I love the connection of high school students with higher ed. Framing the model as 3 E's is a catchy shorthand for important program elements. I'm interested in what you think are the most important "ingredients" of the model and how you are thinking about the process of scaling up. How much will you allow the new sites to adjust the model to their local needs? What parts of the project do you expect to travel well and which do you think might need the most modification?

  • Icon for: Allie Rowe

    Allie Rowe

    Communications Coordinator
    May 19, 2017 | 03:09 p.m.
    • Hi Heidi! Thank you for your positive feedback and questions. We see the most important ingredients of the model as 1) engaging students in research that addresses real issues facing their communities and helps to solve these local problems (so far this has involved water, but could be a different topic), 2) learning and applying science and engineering skills, and the use of technology, 3) identifying “champion” mentors for students, 4) connecting students with a diversity of professionals in water and engineering (whom we call “stakeholders”). We expect those 4 aspects of the project will transfer well to partners across the country.


    • As part of our mutually reinforcing activities, we encourage our partners to adopt our process in a way that fits their location and demographic specific needs. For instance, given local conditions, SMART students in California might focus their research on water conservation. We hope to use continuous communication (monthly feedback from partners, in addition to real-time calls to troubleshoot challenges) to allow regional partners to learn from each other’s successes, strengthening the collaborative as a whole.


    • One area that will likely vary with location is the identity of mentors and stakeholders. For instance, in Maine our mentors are high school science teachers. Meanwhile, our partner in California, based out of ReNUWIt (Reinventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure), is engaging graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are conducting stormwater research to serve as mentors. Stakeholder panels will look different in each state, as they can include a variety of individuals who are interested in the betterment of their local community (community leaders, educators, parents, government officials, industry representatives, non-profit workers…).
  • May 19, 2017 | 07:30 p.m.

      I am pleased to see  your approach to Heidi’s questions and that you have a similar value towards community engagement with  respect their level of interest.


    Also I  agree we overlap well both in project goals and topic concerns with water as a community issue in New England as it affects us here differently in other regions.  The connection with other regions is important to our local efforts.  We in New England historically rely on water in all forms, liquid, solid and as water vapor for our industries as well as our consumption. This is a bit different in other regions.


    The question I asked about  risk management includes those you listed and other considerations that are stepped into when one leaves the school campus not to mention enter the water with equipment! 


    As for data structure, in the MSP we drilled back from water quality protocol to start our investigations with sensors that could be placed in a small, shared experience and  location, the classroom.  In 2010 the NHMSP program required Harvard’s MOSART test which indicated a common need beyond the average citizen’s misconceptions in areas of understanding light, heat transfer and the analysis of dual variables in graphs.  Our overarching goal was to transition teachers to use online content  through PD by JASON Learning (Jason.org) by  using a local Learning Management System ( LMS.)  The NH Dept of Ed was using Moodle.  We were attempting to move the Professional Learning Community suggested at that time for schools or district in need of improvement (SINI/DINI) now the law has changed to focus on students.


     We adjusted early.  After hearing from teachers….“why should I write online when I can just step across the hall to a colleague for their view?”  We changed our approach to a hybrid,  adding physical  “tool events” to our schedule and writing up specific “case studies” shared by the teachers at different educational levels.  Those with projects presented at NHSTA and other options. Data from the tools was not the interest of their colleagues, integration and practical applications has been.  Visualization of data collection as a practice to approach “phenomenon” introduction seems to precede the actual data use.


     This worked well as we solved integration problems as they arose and  enabled ownership of the data as a practice of project design development and  less concerns about analysis of the final  data.  Since we are began with light and temperature relationships, everyone had varied data…even across the room or across the hall. 


    Once the classroom level was set to record appropriate entry projects we continued the practice of visiting, exploring the data with the teachers and resetting as part of longer conversations that allowed them to share their successes with classroom /student examples.  This transition acts to develop direct evaluation….and trust which takes time, however our project is a Community of Practice.     Glad to join you into the CoP and consider how these processes unite.

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