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Tech College to Expand Maker Facilities for Under-represented Engineering Students

A technical college in Washington has received National Science Foundation funding to expand its maker-based learning program. Bellingham Technical College received a $649,480 "Scholarships in STEM" grant to support the college's project, "Building Inclusive Maker Communities for Engineering Technology Students" (MakerCETS). The program will connect three cohorts of 12 low-income, academically talented students over the course of five years, who will participate in multi-year, extended projects.

MakerCETS is expected to boost student access to science, technology, engineering and math programs through financial assistance, mentoring and academic support specifically for Engineering Technology program students. BTC offers six specializations in that program: civil engineering technology, clean energy, composites, electronics, geomatics and mechanical design. The division also offers a new bachelor of applied science in engineering technology.

The 36 participants will be connecting to peers and regional engineering technology communities, including local organizations such as the Bellingham Makerspace, Western Washington University and the Port of Bellingham. Students will work on multi-year projects that have ties to the community.

Jill Davishahl, principal investigator for the grant and a mechanical engineering instructor at Bellingham, said her hope for the "projects experience" is that it will help students feel like they belong in the program as well as in the "greater engineering community," thereby increasing the odds that they will succeed.

"One of the most exciting parts of this grant is being able to provide students with the opportunity to work collaboratively on maker-based projects with support from BTC faculty, WWU peer mentors and the Bellingham Makerspace," she noted. "Students will investigate the local, regional and global impact of service-learning as it applies to engineering technology in education and the workforce."

The next deadline for NSF S-STEM scholarship grant applications is March 27, 2019. Additional information is available on the NSF website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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