Rochester, NY, United States
Rochester, NY, United States

Rochester Institute of Technology is a private university located within the town of Henrietta in the Rochester, New York metropolitan area.RIT is composed of nine academic colleges, including National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The Institute is one of only a small number of engineering institutes in the State of New York, including New York Institute of Technology, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It is most widely known for its fine arts, computing, engineering, and imaging science programs; several fine arts programs routinely rank in the national "Top 10" according to the US News & World Report. Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 999.89K | Year: 2016

This NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program (S-STEM) project at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) will support 78 talented low income students (26 students per year over three years) transferring to engineering and engineering technology programs from community colleges in New York. The project team will leverage several extant programs at RIT, including articulation agreements in place with a network of community colleges. In line with this, the project team will incorporate proactive recruiting and support strategies. Likewise, the S-STEM scholars workforce preparation will be enhanced by a mandatory cooperative education program through which these transfer students will acquire a year or more of paid internship experience in industry before graduation. The project will focus on challenges often encountered by vertical transfer students by adding an extended orientation for the scholars and by customizing individual interventions and support such as targeted mentoring and advising in each of four crucial categories: academic; social; financial; and personal.

The investigators will gather critical evidence to better understand essential elements for student success in a vertical transfer program, and will seek to answer two fundamental research questions: (1) How can 4-year private institutions use the vertical transfer pathway to attract high-achieving low-income students, and graduate them with a baccalaureate degree in engineering or engineering technology? and (2) What elements must a vertical transfer program have to be successful at a 4-year private institution? The researchers will collect data for each cohort and will use a mixed methods qualitative and quantitative approach to generate knowledge about each component of their transfer program in order to make appropriate adjustments to improve it as well as to determine which elements are essential to its success. The successful activities and components will be institutionalized and sustained at RIT, and the program will serve as a model, especially for other 4-year private institutions, to aid the expansion and diversification of the engineering and technology STEM workforce of the future.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 4.00M | Year: 2015

2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the landmark civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity and access for persons with disabilities. Although progress has been made during the last two and a half decades, people with disabilities continue to be employed at rates much lower than the rest of the population. This is especially true of Americans who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (d/hh). Being employed in STEM provides a great benefit for d/hh people, since overall d/hh people in STEM occupations earn 31% more than d/hh people in non-STEM fields, and being employed in STEM reduces the earning gap between deaf and hearing employees. This center, DeafTEC, aims to increase the access for d/hh individuals to career information, to a technical education, and to unrestricted employment.

DeafTEC will impact the knowledge and attitudes of d/hh students, as well as high school teachers, community college faculty, parents, counselors and employers, in terms of the educational and employment opportunities and options available. The Centers professional development experiences will improve the instructional expertise of high school and community college teachers in STEM subjects to provide greater access to learning for these students, as well as help employers develop the sensitivity and skills to successfully integrate d/hh technicians into the workplace. DeafTEC will also expand its reach to veterans with hearing loss by developing, with their local community colleges and veterans programs, resources on best practices for teaching this underserved audience. The Center will:
(1) develop expanded partnerships in targeted regions of the country among high schools, community colleges, and industry to improve access to technological education and employment for d/hh students;
(2) develop new curricula for national dissemination related to STEM careers for middle and high school students, job readiness for community college students, and best practices for teaching d/hh students in STEM subjects for general teacher preparation programs;
(3) provide professional development resources for community college faculty on best practices for teaching military veterans with hearing loss;
(4) develop an expanded website to serve as a clearinghouse for information related to technical education and technician careers for d/hh students; and
(5) continue to expand a national STEM dual credit program to improve pathways for d/hh students to transition from high school to college.

DeafTECs emphasis on universal design, developmental math and writing across the STEM curriculum can benefit all students in need of additional resources and support. The partnerships established among high schools, community colleges, and employers can also serve as a model that can be replicated in other regions as well as with other groups of underserved students.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: METAL & METALLIC NANOSTRUCTURE | Award Amount: 397.76K | Year: 2016

Non-Technical Abstract

This project advances the progress of science by exploring how to control magnetic properties by making materials in new and very well controlled ways, and evaluating what new applications may be realized with such magnetic materials. Advances in magnetism are integral to new sensors, computing technologies, energy efficiency, and data storage, all of which impact US health, prosperity, and national defense. The project may also benefit manufacturers that use advanced magnetic materials in their products, which will help the US maintain technological superiority. Additionally, this project will support the training of young scientists so that they become familiar with modern research techniques and scientific collaboration, and ultimately develop the skills needed thrive in the US scientific and engineering workforce.

Technical Abstract

The goals of this work are to create and investigate nanoscale magnetic heterostructures that contain intentional distributions of magnetic properties. We will investigate how well-controlled composition gradients in magnetic structures can lead to new functions that may enable the design of new devices relevant to applications such as: magnetic recording and data storage; telecommunications; and energy harvesting. Focus areas include thermally tunable exchange coupling in magnetic films; magnonic waveguides; and graded magnetic structures for electrical energy generation via spin motive forces. Understanding how to define and control magnetic properties with temperature will have implications for energy harvesting and energy assisted magnetic recording. Understanding how magnons propagate in inhomogeneous magnetic materials may impact the future of telecommunications and enable novel computing architectures with reduced energy requirements. Understanding the novel phenomenon of spin motive force may lead to energy harvesting and advanced battery technologies. The artificially structured materials will be fabricated by thin film deposition techniques, and their physical properties will be characterized using magnetometry, diffraction, transport, and neutron scattering in collaboration with national laboratories.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 965.09K | Year: 2016

There is a critical need to increase the number of skilled technology workers within the United States, with computing skills becoming increasingly important as the nation moves further into the 21st century. This need is fueled by the realization that the number of tech workers needed to maintain political and economic security far outweighs the current workers available now or in the immediate future. To increase interest, commercial, governmental, and not-for-profit educational groups have sponsored numerous initiatives aimed to bring computing to more students, recently with a K-12 emphasis. This project seeks to determine the long-term impact of these activities as a mechanism for growing the skilled technology workforce within the United States.

The goal of this project is to create the resources and tools necessary for identifying best practices for identifying the long term impact of these pre-college computing activities on participants, including analyses of data based on gender and ethnicity. The projects scope will include two phases: 1) the identification, review, and analysis of past and current pre-college computing activities and their impact on participants to determine the major influencing variables and 2) the creation and implementation of a formal process for collecting data related to pre-college computing activities, including major influencing variables, necessary for educational researchers to be able to evaluate and analyze the long-term impact of these activities. Two significant outputs from this project are the creation of instruments available for measuring the long-term effects of pre-college computing efforts; and measurement results from using these instruments to evaluate the effects of current and past pre-college computing efforts.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) | Award Amount: 428.02K | Year: 2016

The issue of diversity in STEM is of national importance. The future needs of the US technological workforce necessitate cultivating the entire domestic talent pool, especially groups historically and currently underrepresented in STEM: women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. Successfully transitioning underrepresented students to graduate studies is key to this vision, but the majority of STEM PhD programs are failing in this regard. This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award in the Innovations in Graduate Education (IGE) Track to the Rochester Institute of Technology and the American Physical Society (APS) will explore interventions that may help increase the access of US women and underrepresented minorities to physics PhD programs and increase the PhD completion rates of these groups. This innovative project will, for the first time, investigate how physics faculty approach admissions and student retention. Evaluation data from this project will allow the design of training materials to help faculty use more inclusive practices. Because these interventions are likely to be transferrable to different fields and institutions, the project has the potential to revolutionize how STEM graduate admission is carried out and to increase the completion rates of US citizens in STEM PhD programs.

This project will address graduate STEM education inclusion at both the admission and retention phases. To address access, the project will investigate faculty attitudes and admission measures. Physics faculty attitudes toward diversity, merit, and non-cognitive constructs will be assessed as a measure of change readiness. Participating faculty will then be trained in holistic admissions, a method that is proven to increase diversity in graduate education. The project will develop and validate a non-cognitive assessment tool as part of the holistic admissions packet. To address retention, faculty will be trained on evidence-based support structures that can help new graduate students manage the difficult first years of graduate school. Experimental faculty-centered workshops on admissions and retention will be developed and delivered by the project to four partnering programs at three universities (Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Central Florida, and University of Denver) and then at national meetings hosted by the APS. Formative assessments of these workshops throughout the grant period will be used to revise and refine the materials, resulting in an Admissions and Retention Faculty Training Program that may be used by departments across the country. The APS will curate the resulting materials and help facilitate training during and after project completion, ensuring wide dissemination and sustainable impact of proven practices.

The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new, potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. The Innovations in Graduate Education Track is dedicated solely to piloting, testing, and evaluating novel, innovative, and potentially transformative approaches to graduate education.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ADVANCED TECH EDUCATION PROG | Award Amount: 820.50K | Year: 2016

RoadMAPPS to CAREERS will help solve a significant projected skills gap in the US economy. As smart phones, smart things, tablets and wearable devices continue to change the way we communicate, do business and access information, the demand for mobile applications has grown exponentially. This explosive increase in demand translates into a large skills gap - there are simply more mobile application (app) development job openings than there are skilled application developers to fill them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be approximately 82,000 mobile app developer jobs for candidates with associate degrees by 2020. The RoadMAPPS to Careers project will prepare associate degree students for mobile app developer positions that pay well above the national average, maintain a high rate of employment, and offer a range of advancement opportunities. The 5-semester curriculum is being developed and initially offered at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), one of the nine colleges of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The program content and educational strategies of the curriculum are appropriate for all students, whether hearing or deaf, and can be tailored for programs requiring less than five semesters. However, specific teaching techniques tailored to the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students will be employed at NTID. The project will also create a pathway to the program for middle and high school students through career awareness materials, summer camp activities and dual credit courses.

The broad scope of the curriculum will integrate technical courses with business courses, general education courses, and work experiences in order to cultivate the technical, social, and work skills needed for success in todays global economy. Students will learn through instruction, hands-on exercises, labs, and learning support community activities. They will also fulfill a required cooperative work experience and complete a capstone project where they will design and develop a publishable mobile app. Although other colleges are offering programs in mobile app development, RoadMAPPS to Careers will introduce an innovative cross-platform approach that is especially appropriate for an associate degree program. Students will learn the programming concepts and acquire the skills needed to create mobile apps that run on multiple platforms (iOS, Android and Windows) without being overwhelmed by learning a different programming language for each platform. A leading developer of cross-platform technology (Xamarin) is partnering with RIT on the project. Students will also have the opportunity to achieve C# and Xamarin certification, which are standards in the field.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: DEVELOP& LEARNING SCIENCES/CRI | Award Amount: 449.95K | Year: 2016

The human brain is remarkably adept at integrating information from the different senses to create rich representations of the world. For example, understanding what a dog is can involve information not only about how the dog looks and acts, but also about how it sounds, feels, and even smells. Consequently, one sense, such as hearing, can exert an influence on processing in another, such as vision. There has been some suggestion from prior research that this is why deaf children often struggle to process some types of visual information. However, this may not be due to a direct effect of lack of hearing on vision. Deaf children often have delayed exposure to language, which may also influence how childrens visual processing develops. The effects of language exposure and auditory deprivation can be disentangled by studying deaf children who are exposed to a natural visual language - American Sign Language. This project will provide information about how hearing and language influence vision during development, and will also provide information about how deaf children come to learn about the world around them.

One hundred and fifty deaf children aged 6-13 years, who vary in both their hearing loss and their exposure to American Sign Language, will be followed longitudinally for 2-3 years. During the first wave of data collection, each childs audiological profile, ASL skills and language background, and nonverbal IQ will be assessed. At each of four waves of data collection, their ability to process sequential streams of visual information will be measured. Moderation analyses will be used to determine the effects of hearing loss and natural language exposure and skill on the development of this visual processing ability. In doing so, the researchers will be able to test competing hypotheses about the basis for visual sequence processing deficits in deaf children.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 991.92K | Year: 2016

Babbitt, Callie W.

Faced with a growing population and a shrinking pool of natural resources, society faces an unprecedented challenge to provide a resilient food supply, made even more complex by vast inefficiencies and resulting food waste generated across the food supply chain. For the 40% of food that never reaches human consumption, the significant energy and water resources that went into its production are lost, and new environmental challenges emerge, such as greenhouse gases emissions from landfilling food waste, the conventional management practice in the US. While sustainable alternatives exist for converting food waste into clean energy resources or value-added products and can lead to economic growth and environmental benefits, widespread adoption of these practices is limited by a lack of knowledge about food waste composition and location, inefficient technologies for converting mixed waste streams, and inconsistent food waste policies. To address these challenges, the PIs will make fundamental advances in understanding and improving the technical feasibility, economic costs, and environmental benefits associated with new technologies, policies, and waste infrastructure designs for sustainable food waste-to-energy systems. The planned scientific advances in food waste minimization and management are expected to catalyze new industries and jobs in the US, by translating research findings for stakeholders in the industrial and policy sectors, and to enhance the next generation workforce, through educational partnerships with the Rochester City School District and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

This project will combine insight from sustainability, engineering, policy, geospatial informatics, and ecology with a goal to create and evaluate novel, integrated solutions for minimizing food waste and improving resource efficiency across the food supply chain. Fundamental empirical and analytical research will be carried out through interconnected lines of inquiry, wherein new empirical data will be generated to characterize food waste stream heterogeneity in terms of geospatial variability and chemical composition. These data will be used to parameterize novel geospatial optimization models to identify preferred waste management system design (e.g., large-scale, centralized systems vs. drop-in, decentralized technologies) and to evaluate alternate policy strategies for waste minimization (e.g., food waste landfill ban or incentives program for food donation). Finally, three innovative food waste valorization technologies will be evaluated: food waste pre-treatment via vacuum cycle nucleation, combined anaerobic digestion-pyrolysis systems, and biogas conversion via high-temperature proton exchange membrane. Combined, these efforts will result in the first comprehensive evaluation of how physical and chemical properties of regional food waste streams vary over time and space, and in the development of fundamental relationships between waste heterogeneity and optimal policy, systems, and technology solutions. In addition, all proposed solutions will be evaluated using nexus thinking, which will quantify holistic tradeoffs, such as waste minimization, net energy consumption, life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, impact to freshwater ecosystems, policy compliance, and economic costs.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 443.20K | Year: 2016

This project, developed by Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), collaborating with the University of Texas at Austin, will explore existing strategies for effective access and inclusion in their courses with mixed groups of hearing and deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students, and develop new strategies of effective, accessible and inclusive instruction. A significant aspect of this project is the development of an Accessibility ToolKit, a set of inclusive instructional materials, strategies, and discussions. Such tools and strategies will be beneficial to diverse groups of learners, not only for DHH students. This project will serve the national interest of effective and inclusive education of DHH students in STEM fields, leading to successful degree attainment, and an increase in the diversity of STEM graduates.

The project goals are: (1) to increase access, engagement and academic success of DHH students taking postsecondary courses at RIT via the creation, implementation, and evaluation of an Accessibility ToolKit for evidence-based educational approaches in STEM disciplines; (2) to create training environments where faculty experiment with and innovate new resources and strategies for accessible and inclusive pedagogy, through collaborative professional development and assessment of evidence-based strategies; and (3) to document and disseminate the ToolKit and processes so that they may be applied to other populations of postsecondary students with disabilities. Results will examine best practices that promote faculty adoption of these instructional strategies to maximize learning for students with other diverse learning needs, and the impact of such adaptations on inclusive teaching and student engagement. This project will broaden the scope and use of accessible and inclusive strategies to increase DHH student engagement and to address communication and learning needs in STEM classrooms.

Organic chemistry is required for college students majoring in a variety of STEM disciplines. Traditionally, this course has been viewed as a gatekeeper and students have considered the laboratory experience as an isolated and irrelevant use of their time. Reformed teaching methods that increase the relevance of the laboratory and increase student success have proven challenging to deliver, especially when laboratories are taught by graduate teaching assistants. This project, which builds on prior NSF-funded work (DUE Awards #1245160 and #1245176), will develop, implement, and study innovative and easy-to-adopt studio-based organic lab modules. These modules will transform the traditional 3-4 hour organic laboratory into a meaningful learning experience involving trouble-shooting problems and honing lab skills. The project is a collaborative effort between a research university (Rochester Institute of Technology) and a community college (Monroe Community College), which will ensure the materials are appropriate for use in both two-year and four-year settings. In collaboration with regional partners, studies will be conducted to evaluate student learning in other settings, as well as the ease of module adoption, student performance, and retention rates.

This project leverages earlier work developing a studio-based organic laboratory curriculum for two-year and four-year colleges, and promoting its broadened development and implementation. Central goals of the project are enhancing students meaningful learning and engagement with organic chemistry, and developing a model for implementation of reform-based curricula. To determine the impact of this approach, the project will measure student learning and success, and evaluate the ease and fidelity of module adoption at collaborating institutions. Given the diverse population of students across the institutions committed to adopt the materials and the proximity to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, further studies will identify retention trends for a diverse set of student populations. This will contribute to developing a more diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce. The results will be disseminated broadly via a PI-sponsored conference, peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, a website, and a textbook partnership.

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