Polytechnic University of Mozambique

Maputo, Mozambique

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Core R&D Programs | Award Amount: 499.27K | Year: 2016

Concerns about maintaining a strong, vibrant US economy and improving global competitiveness have led to efforts to increase the number and diversity of graduates in STEM majors. Attrition among engineering students is high in the first two years of college studies, and even higher among women and underrepresented minority students. There have been research investments made by multiple stakeholders that have invested in various strategies to improve the situation with many efforts focused on knowledge-acquisition aspects of student performance. In contrast there are research efforts to explore strategies that are more focused on motivation and self-regulatory aspects of student performance. There has been an increasing effort to investigate a construct that measures these aspects called grit. Grit, which is defined as unwavering interest in and perseverance for a long-term goal, is likely to be important to individuals trying to achieve the challenging, long-term goal of attaining an engineering degree.

The proposed study is an active learning model that evaluates the impacts on grit character trait and its relations to student retention in engineering. It will be conducted with an ethnically and economically diverse sample of undergraduate engineering students. The team is using an experimental design approach in which response to the control groups is utilized to evaluate grit characteristics of growth mindset and build optimism. The research questions seek to investigate if active learning builds the character trait of grit among engineering students while they learn in a sequence of engineering mechanics courses and whether increased grit leads to other success outcomes such as retention in the major and progress toward degree. The intellectual merit includes the treatment approach to explore active learning impacts on student grit upon student retention and course sequencing. The broader impacts of research is that an active learning design model that can provide insights to the impact on student retention and completion of coursework and degree completion. Also there will be special focus on investigating women and underrepresented minorities who leave STEM majors at disproportionately higher rates in the STEM workforce.

This project is supported by NSFs EHR Core Research Program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 190.88K | Year: 2016

One of the four key recommendations of the Nuclear Science Advisory Committees 2015 Long Range Plan (LRP) included increasing investment in small-scale and mid-scale projects and initiatives that enable forefront research at universities and laboratories. The LRP also encourages education and workforce development as well as research and development into state-of-the-art tools and techniques for nuclear science. This project, the development of a particle physics detector at Chicago State University and California Polytechnic State University, will enable the transfer of knowledge from an international collaboration of world-class physicists and engineers at Europes Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to our universities. This will provide unique opportunities to train undergraduate students in electronics, detection techniques, laser technology, data analysis, and instrumentation interface.

The Fast Interaction Trigger Detector (FIT) proposed here is an instrument that meets specific requirements as the Minimum Bias trigger for one of the particle detector systems (called ALICE) at the LHC: (a) The capability to discriminate beam-beam interactions with a 99% efficiency for the collisions generated by the LHC at a rate of 50 kHz for Pb-Pb collisions and a rate of 200 kHz for p-p and p-Pb collisions. (b) The capability to provide a start signal for the rest of the ALICE detectors (Level 0 trigger) with a time resolution better than 30 ps. In addition to these design parameters, the FIT detector will provide the following measurements: (a) Charged particle multiplicity (b) Interaction reaction plane (c) First measurement of the collision vertex position. FIT will also be the key detector to provide direct feedback to the LHC. It will be the first of the ALICE detectors to be turned on to perform beam tuning and monitor online luminosity. These characteristics, not available in any instrument provided by a vendor, require the development of a unique instrument at the vanguard of trigger detectors for high energy nuclear and particle physics.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 2.44M | Year: 2015

Education research continues to produce evidence that teaching methods that use active-learning strategies yield improved learning outcomes and student success across the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Yet, many college mathematics classes are not yet taught using such strategies. To address this problem, the project, PROfessional Development and Uptake through Collaborative Teams (PRODUCT): Supporting Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) in Undergraduate Mathematics through Workshops, Research and Capacity-Building, is designed to increase institutional capacity to offer professional development for instructors. The active learning strategy of focus, known as inquiry-based learning (IBL), places emphasis on student creation, exploration, communication, collaboration, and experimentation with mathematical concepts, under the mentorship and guidance of an instructor. Building directly on previously funded work that produced and studied a successful professional development workshop model, this project will develop multiple new teams to conduct workshops and outreach activities on IBL teaching strategies (known as a train the trainers propagation model). Research conducted alongside the workshop activities will contribute to knowledge about effective strategies for encouraging use of active learning approaches such as IBL, and for supporting instructors as they learn to apply and adapt these approaches in their own classrooms.

PRODUCT will conduct 12 four-day intensive IBL workshops, as well as 15 short workshops and five Professional Development (PD) Preparatory Meetings, and will host a Professional Development Summit for mathematics faculty developers. Through these activities, PRODUCT will directly provide professional development for 320 undergraduate mathematics faculty, adapt and improve IBL PD materials, develop multiple new teams of faculty developers who will be prepared to engage additional faculty in the future, and develop a framework for building professional development capacity. A research-with-evaluation study will provide formative feedback, study the process and outcomes for development of the professional development teams, gather data to benchmark workshops led by new teams against a model known to be effective, and investigate the classroom practices of workshop participants to understand how the professional development experience shapes their teaching. The project will produce new knowledge about scaling up professional development programs through a careful and collaborative process to prepare teams of faculty developers and provide them with well-supported leadership experiences.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 479.34K | Year: 2016

Engineering and computing education remains a critical ingredient for US competitiveness, workforce development, and technological supremacy now and into the future. Understanding the ways in which students succeed and fail in STEM majors, and developing powerful ways to support them, will pay dividends for our students, our institutions, and our nation. This project is completing the first national, comprehensive study of the role of non-cognitive and affective (NCA) factors, including personality, grit, identity, and many others, in student academic performance in undergraduate engineering curricula. Understanding the role of NCA factors allows the project to continue developing appropriate on-campus resources for students in need of academic or personal support. This project is demonstrating how NCA factors can indicate the kinds of support resources with highest potential to help students in need, thus enabling their continued academic success.

This project uses a mixed-methods design to explore the role of NCA factors in undergraduate engineering student academic success. Across the three partner institutions, which present diverse student bodies in multiple settings, survey, interview, and intervention data is being collected and correlated to academic performance as measured by course grades using a variety of statistical techniques including regression and topological data analysis. The project has important intellectual merit because it is the first project to systematically examine student academic performance in the face of specific obstacles as mediated by their NCA profile and cognitive makeup. It demonstrates broader impact by operationalizing the sameintervention in multiple settings, and recognizing the role of local context in the implementation and outcomes. The role of both traditionally-defined and latent diversity in answering the research questions holds important implications for the research and practitioner communities alike.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAM | Award Amount: 49.00K | Year: 2017

The Faculty and Undergraduate Research Student Teams (FURST) program brings together small research groups comprised of undergraduate students and faculty from primarily undergraduate institutions (PUI) in order to provide them with a year-long research experience. The program also provides a one month long intensive summer immersion for its participants at an established summer REU site at Fresno State. FURST students get an opportunity to participate in professional workshops, presentations and academic discussions along with the REU students, whereas FURST faculty can take advantage of an on-site, in-person research collaboration with their peers within the FURST program. The programs main goal is to foster both student and faculty research at PUIs, with the specific goal of producing student and faculty authored publications, as well as presentations. The program is designed to be inclusive and accessible to teams from institutions with varying research focus and support, in order to mitigate cultural changes at institutions which may not consider research a quintessential component of higher education.

FURST students will be working on open problems in mathematics under the guidance of their faculty mentors. Research topics include community detection problems in networks, expanding the framework and analysis of the cop and robber game, the use of coarse Ricci curvature in data analysis and interpolation problems, the study and solution of the non-linear Riccati-Ermakov equation, as well as other non-linear dispersive partial differential equations. Strengthening their background in the selected research topic through readings and lecture at their home institutions will prepare FURST students to engage in research at the same speed as the REU students during the immersion phase. Students will be expected to submit the end product of their research for publication in a peer reviewed journal. FURST faculty will engage in solving open problems in their area of research while building collaborations with faculty at other institutions. Faculty are also expected to produce publishable work as a result of participating in the program. In accordance with the stated goals, the program will improve access to research for students at PUIs, where such opportunities are typically limited. It will also (re)-energize faculty at PUIs so that they remain active in research. By doing so, FURST will help transform the research culture at the participating institutions, especially since the bulk of the research activities will take place at FURST teams home institutions. While FURST student participants will learn skills through the program that are invaluable in graduate school and in the scientific workplace, the program will broadly impact the students at the involved PUIs by demonstrating to them (through student talks and presentations) that research can be part of the undergraduate educational experience. Finally, through the immersion in an active REU site, FURST students will gain exposure to the workings of an REU program, and will be able to make better informed choices about applying to REU as a potential next step in their academic development.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: FLUID DYNAMICS | Award Amount: 78.10K | Year: 2016

PI: Martinez, Andres
Proposal Number: 1605499

The goal of the proposed research is to study fluid flow through the capillaries in microPADS (a special type of paper that can be used for analytic purposes in bio-related diagnostics in areas where complex hardware is not available.) A model for the process is proposed to be developed in collaboration with researchers at Princeton University.

The proposed work focuses on the experimental study and modeling of evaporation-driven capillary flow (ECF) through paper-based microfluidic devices (microPADs) in order to use this type of fluid transport for the development of paper-based diagnostic devices capable of performing automated multi-step assays. The proposed work will result in an investigation of ECF in microPADs with infinite and finite fluid reservoirs; an investigation of the effects of the design of the microPAD on ECF; the development of mathematical models to describe ECF in microPADs, and the application of these models toward the design and development of prototype microPADs for conducting automated multi-step diagnostic assays, including an enzyme inhibition assay and an immuno-chromatographic assay with signal amplification. All the experimental work will be conducted by undergraduate student using relatively simple materials and fabrication methods. The proposed work will also serve to advance the general understanding of ECF, with implications for other systems such as plants and plasticbased microfluidic devices. The work with prototype diagnostic devices will elucidate mechanisms for developing more sophisticated point-of-care diagnostic assays that are still very simple to use. Finally, the project will enable the development of new assays that require at least two, timed, sequential steps, and that were previously not possible due to limitations with the current capabilities of microPADs.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 298.95K | Year: 2016

Opportunities to conduct authentic research not only improve students understanding of science but also promote their self-identification as scientists. This project will explore the potential to positively transform undergraduate science education through student research seminars that are specifically structured to produce peer-reviewed journal articles based on students research within the confines of a single semester. At the outset of their college careers, students participating in this model will form student-managed teams within a supportive scientific community of practice. The seminars will teach the students how science really works through projects that they themselves plan and manage. By conducting and publishing scientific research, the students will become -- both technically and sociologically -- real scientists.

For the past decade, Cuesta College, a community college in San Luis Obispo, California, has offered an astronomy research seminar with the format described above. Over 150 students have completed the seminar as coauthors of published papers, primarily reporting observations of visual double stars. Recently, the seminar has also been offered by nearby California Polytechnic State University, a public institution, as well as by Concordia University, a private institution in Irvine, California. This project will expand the seminar model to other areas of observational astronomy beyond double stars (but still within the small-telescope community of practice), such as observations of exoplanet transits, binary star eclipses, and pulsating stars. The investigators will also expand the model into environmental science, featuring three types of atmospheric measurement: (1) the size, distribution, and morphology of small atmospheric particles; (2) infrared and Raman spectroscopy of particulate matter that settles from the atmosphere; and (3) atmospheric gas samples analyzed with infrared spectroscopy, gas chromatography, and mass spectrometry. Results will be correlated with local weather conditions, road traffic data, sample location, and special climatic events such as forest fires and Santa Ana winds. Through the Council on Undergraduate Research (a partner in the project), the investigators will assess opportunities for applying the seminars community-of-practice approach to other sciences beyond astronomy and environmental science and will organize a focus group of national education and policy experts, who will consider how to expand nationally and scaffold the research seminars paradigm of students as scientists within a community of practice. One of the projects contributions to STEM education research will be to examine the impact of the seminars malleable factors, moderators, and mediators on such student outcomes as motivation to become a scientist, critical thinking (enhanced by having research papers reviewed by other students, instructors, and external experts), improved project planning and management skills, writing skills, and preparing and giving presentations on research projects.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: POP & COMMUNITY ECOL PROG | Award Amount: 481.00K | Year: 2016

Scientists have long explained where particular species of animals are found by examining what we, as humans, see in the environment. For example, we know that the type and density of plants affect where sparrows can be found. However, many animals rely heavily on non-visual senses, such as hearing, when interacting with their surroundings and deciding where to live. Although the acoustic environment -- what animals hear -- may be important to many species, it remains largely unexplored as a force influencing where animals can be found. This project will examine the extent to which natural sounds, such as those generated by wind and water, influence where animals settle, how they interact with one another and, ultimately, how they structure entire communities. Focusing on birds and bats, the investigators will conduct a large-scale experiment in which they place many speakers in the forest to create phantom oceans and rivers -- the sounds of moving water without the water itself. This will allow them to figure out how sounds can change the way in which species interact with their environment and with each other. Specifically, this study will test how noise can explain where animals live, how they behave, and the extent to which they are impacted by human-made noise generated, for example, along major highways. This study will also provide research opportunities for undergraduate students at small universities and will result in an Acoustics in Ecology and Evolution workshop to teach young scientists how to incorporate acoustics into their own ecological field research.

Researchers will test for acoustic impacts on bird and bat communities in areas characterized by high levels of natural sounds from moving water (natural river and ocean surf sounds), low levels of natural sounds, high levels of artificially created natural sounds (phantom river and surf sounds), and spectrally-shifted, artificially created natural sounds. The latter two treatments will be generated via large-scale playbacks of sounds recorded elsewhere. The experimental approach of playing back natural sounds at different frequencies will allow researchers to parse the influence of acoustic masking versus more general effects of sounds (e.g., disturbance and distraction) on bird and bat behavior and on community structure. Researchers will also assess the potential role of low frequency natural sounds as acoustic beacons for habitat selection. Field work will entail a combination of behavioral experiments, bird, bat, arthropod and vegetation surveys, and spatially explicit quantification of the acoustic environment. Researchers will test hypotheses regarding how sounds structure communities directly by masking cues used for communication or predator/prey detection, directly via elevated perceived risk through a reduction in auditory surveillance, or indirectly by altering prey distributions.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Space Weather Research | Award Amount: 100.00K | Year: 2017

A small satellite with a miniature mass spectrometer (referred to as INMS) as the centerpiece instrument and including all telemetry, communication and attitude control systems has been designed, the instrumental parts fabricated, and what remains is the integration of these parts required to achieve delivery by the spring of 2017. The purpose of this CUBESAT satellite mission is to provide in-situ densities of atmospheric species near 500 km, on a global scale. This satellite, named EXOCUBE 2, follows directly on the EXOCUBE mission that had a similar scientific scope. EXOCUBE suffered communication problems due to an antenna deployment system failure, and one attitude control system gravity boom also failed. Nevertheless, the key science package, the neutral and ion mass spectrometer, did perform as expected and a small amount of data retrieved indicated the efficacy of that instrument, which flew for the first time, on EXOCUBE.

The rationale justifying a RAPID proposal for EXOCUBE 2 is that this satellite mission is manifested to fly on the NASA Educational Launch of Nanosat (ELaNa) launch queue in the fall of 2017. Achieving this date would require the ExoCube-2 satellite delivery to take place within the spring of 2017. The proposed work would rapid assemble and integrate the mass spectrometer and satellite bus to meet this demanding one-year schedule. The very short development time and minimal cost is made possible by the legacy experience and materials left over from the previous flight of the EXOCUBE satellite that unfortunately failed owing to the failure of the deployment of the telemetry transmitting antenna.

A fuel cell catalyst support material with self-healing and service on the fly properties. The material is stable and can preserve a fuel cells activity over an extended lifetime. The approach strikes a practical balance between the optimum size of the electrocatalyst particle and the ability of the support material to self-heal under electrochemical stress. The self-healing support material allows the use of very small catalyst particles size without affecting the fuel cells durability. This not only increases the efficiency of the fuel cell but also allows low PGM loading.

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