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LOWELL ߝ UMass Lowell’s Francis College of Engineering has won a grant for $1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF), one of only six awarded nationwide out of 57 applicants.
The three-year funding will help the College implement its project, SLICE: Service Learning Integrated throughout a College of Engineering. Service learning involves projects that have a charitable aspect and that integrate the student’s classroom learning.
SLICE is a plan to include service-learning projects in existing courses throughout the entire curriculum, so that every student in every engineering department is exposed to service learning in every semester. The existing optional programs will be strengthened and expanded.
“UMass Lowell is the only engineering program with NSF funding that is doing this through the entire college, not just a department,” said Engineering Dean John Ting. “In that respect, we lead the nation.”
Engineering at UMass Lowell has an unusually strong history of service learning. The Assistive Technology program engages senior engineering students in creating and modifying products for the disabled; the Assistive Tech Design Fair does the same with high school students and DesignCamp has added a High Tech summer program that includes an assistive technology project.
UMass Lowell’s energy engineering program leads the Village Empowerment Project, which has installed 60 student-designed solar, lighting and water supply systems in 24 villages in Peru. Faculty-student groups have visited the area 14 times and worked closely with local residents.
“National attention is focused on the country’s diminishing strength in engineering and science,” said Ting. “And in Massachusetts, with a highly educated, relatively affluent population, we have one of the lowest percentages of high school graduates entering science and engineering. Industry, government and community are all concerned and supporting our efforts.”
SLICE is intended to change that trend, by showing students how engineering contributes to society.
“Right now, with few women and minorities entering engineering, we’re not using the talent of half our population,” said Ting. “Many people don’t understand that engineering is a people-helping and creative profession. It makes a real difference in people’s lives. Some of the students in our incoming freshman class have come because they had the chance to experience what engineering is about during exposure to one of our service-learning programs.”
Ting explained that the college has been committed to the SLICE program, regardless of additional funds: “We have the institutional will. Our top priority is to recruit and retain good students and we intend to broaden the appeal and understanding of engineering, to clarify the benefits to society.”
The University of Massachusetts Lowell, a comprehensive university with special expertise in applied science and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UML offers its 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students more than 80 degree programs in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management; the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. Visit our website at www.uml.edu.