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NASA awards grant to Texas A&M University-Kingsville

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Texas A&M University-Kingsville has received a planning grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to improve participation in engineering. 

NASA awarded 14 planning grants to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) through its Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP), part of the agency's Office of STEM Engagement, a news release states. The grants are part of a phased partnership effort with the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NASA news release states the grants will encourage the development of coalitions aimed at broadening participation in engineering, in alignment with the goals of the NSF Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) initiative.

"Efforts with Minority Serving Institutions to broaden student participation exemplify the work of the federal coordination in STEM community and highlight the direct benefit to students when agencies work together," said Mike Kincaid, NASA associate administrator for STEM Engagement. "We look forward to see the results of this partnership."

Texas A&M-Kingsville’s project titled “Parallel Pathways of Excellence to Engage Minority Students in Aerospace Engineering” received $50,000.

This planning project’s objective is to create a concept paper for broadening participation in aerospace engineering via a coalition of MSIs, high schools, private sector, libraries, nonprofit, state and governmental organizations, as well as to create a comprehensive action plan with detailed intervention activities, by testing and assessing the impacts of various approaches during the planning stage.

“With this funded planning grant, we are the first cohort of the NASA MUREP INCLUDES,” said Dr. Hua Li, associate professor and Industrial Engineering Graduate Coordinator. “With the support from NASA, Texas A&M University-Kingsville is leading the effort to develop a MSI-led coalition to promote the education of underrepresented minority students in Aerospace Engineering and related STEM fields.”

Li, who is the principal investigator on the grant, said A&M-Kingsville will partner with Laredo College, West Texas A&M University, Del Mar College, local high schools and libraries, the Texas Space Grant Consortium, Southwest Research Institute, and industry professionals in aerospace companies with the planning grant. The goal is to develop a comprehensive action plan with detailed intervention activities for creating three parallel pathways of excellence for underrepresented minority students, including high school to university, high school to community college, and community college to university.

NASA provided the planning grant so the team can prepare and plan to submit a large scale NASA INCLUDES proposal in the near future, Li said.

NASA plans to announce a large scale INCLUDES funding opportunity in Fall 2020. The planning grant provides funding to test some pilot activities, gather preliminary data and develop good collaboration with different stakeholders, Li said about the planning grant.

“The planning grant is still the same as a regular grant, but it has a shorter project period compared to most regular grants,” Li explained. “It will ensure we have a much better chance to get the large scale INCLUDES grant.”

The main project team includes Dr. Hua Li, Dr. Larry Peel (Co-PI), Dr. Kai Jin (Co-PI), Dr. Nora Garza (Laredo College) and Dr. Michael Preuss (West Texas A&M University).

Dr. Larry Peel, professor and chair of the mechanical and industrial engineering department at Texas A&M-Kingsville and who has a background in aerospace engineering, said he’s strongly committed to helping this effort go forward.

“There is a considerable interest in aerospace engineering at Texas A&M-Kingsville,” Peel said. “We created the aerospace engineering minor a number of years ago, based on requests from the administration, but also because our surveys showed strong interest from students and prospective students.  This funding should help make students more aware of aerospace opportunities and the education needed to work in those fields.”

Peel said Texas A&M-Kingsville is part of the Texas Space Grant Consortium, and our graduates have gone to work for SpaceX, Corpus Christi Army Depot, Lockheed Martin, Southwest Research Institute, the United Launch Alliance, and many other aerospace companies.

“As the Aerospace related industries are booming in South Texas, this planning grant from NASA will significantly help us to attract more students into our current aerospace engineering minor program at Texas A&M-Kingsville and to increase the awareness of aerospace engineering in our region,” Li said. “The project team expects to secure more external grants built upon the results from this planning grant, and continue to enhance our capability of providing valuable education opportunities to underrepresented minority students in our region.”

Category: Engineering , General Univ

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