Research Project Looking at Ways to Retain Technology Students

Article by: Melinda Eddleman

The announcement just came in that four community and technical college partners will share a $825,000 National Science Foundation grant for the project titled “Adapting Tested Spatial Skills Curriculum to On-Line Format for Community College Instruction: A Critical Link to Retain Technology Students.” Del Mar College is one of those four institutions, receiving $80,000 for research supporting the initiative.

DMC’s Phillip Davis, Professor of Computer Science and Advanced and Emerging Technology, will serve as senior researcher at the College when activities get underway this fall.

“Serving as one of the grant partners makes us a leader in this specialized research at two-year colleges,” says Davis about how this project positions Del Mar College in this area of study. He teaches in the College’s Department of Computer Science, Engineering and Advanced Technology and is project manager for the National Information Security & Geospatial Technology Consortium.

The nation’s community and technical colleges are recognized as key institutions in the development of a globally competitive science and engineering technician workforce. This project brings together a team of community and technical college faculty and administrators, curriculum developers and evaluators in an effort to adapt and implement instruction that develops and enhances students’ spatial skills.

The project will engage STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students from various departments in the use of spatial thinking activities to increase their ability to visualize, manipulate and solve 3D application problems.

“Students will complete workbook exercises to manipulate 3D puzzles and objects, similar to a geometry exam,” Davis explains. “These skills are essential in STEM fields, such as engineering, geospatial technology, computer-aided design and interactive gaming.”

The project goal is to demonstrate that proven university spatial thinking skills curriculum material can be adapted and tested at the two-year technical college level. Additionally, researchers will demonstrate the use of online material delivered using iPads that the College will purchase for the project.

Davis adds that students and faculty will each receive a stipend for project participation, which begins this fall and concludes in 2017.

Besides Del Mar College’s programs in Engineering Technology, Game Technology and Simulation, Geographical Information Systems and Cartography Technology participating in the project, the following institutions are also partners:

• Tidewater Community College (Virginia) and their Computer Aided Drafting and Design, Civil Engineering Technology and Electronic Technology programs,

• McHenry County College (Illinois) and their Applied Science in Construction Management, Architectural and Engineering Design Technology, Applied Science in Engineering Technology, Applied Science in Manufacturing Management and Applied Science in Robotics Systems Engineering programs, and??

• Tunxis Community College (Connecticut) and their Engineering Technology program and other programs in the engineering disciplines.

Susan Metz, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, and Sheryl Sorby, Professor Emerita of Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technical University, lead the NSF grant.

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