For years, science and engineering educators, social scientists, industry leaders and policymakers in Massachusetts have struggled to expand and diversify the STEM workforce, each coming at the problem from different disciplinary and institutional perspectives.
With a recent three-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, our team (pictured above) is bringing together leaders across the Commonwealth to break down these silos and build a multi-institutional partnership. This research-practice partnership is connecting educators who teach computer science and engineering, social scientists who study barriers facing students and their solutions, for example. We are also reaching out to education staff who provide out-of-class support, outreach organizations offering out-of-school learning opportunities, and industry partners who hire and develop talent in technology and engineering.
Our hope is for state-wide network project, which we have dubbed REBLS for Research, Educator, Business Leaders, and Students network, will serve as a model for states across the nation. Our goal is to create an open and vibrant network that brings us out of our silos. We welcome new people into our network who are passionate about increasing access and opportunity for underrepresented students in computer science and engineering fields. If this describes you, come join us!
We are working with stakeholders from high schools and community colleges across the state, the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs, Boston Museum of Science, Girls, Inc. of the Valley, and several technology and engineering industry partners.
We are developing a research-practice learning community of approximately 100 people from all stakeholder groups. A key focus for our activities is to:
- identify effective solutions that help students thrive as they transition from high school to higher education in technology or engineering, or from higher education to the workforce in these fields
- replicate and scale successful solutions across institutions
- facilitate new collaborations between practitioners and researchers that tackle knowledge gaps in computer science and engineering education, outreach, and workforce development
Students themselves will play an active role in the network and their experiences will inform the learning community. They will have access to mentoring opportunities to develop professional networks in industry and academia, to get career advice navigating obstacles and to develop ideas for independent projects, master’s theses or dissertations.