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Education Engineering Research Projects

Research on Innovation and Creativity in Higher education in Engineering and Science (RICHES) for Community Colleges
Research on Innovation and Creativity in Higher education in Engineering and Science (RICHES) for Community Colleges is an engineering education research project that seeks to examine a sample of non-traditional college students enrolled in science and engineering programs in four urban community colleges to determine (a) the types and frequency of support practices they utilize, (b) how such practices influence their achievement, persistence and transfer status to four year colleges and universities, and (c) how in turn their propensity for innovation and creative problem solving affects such choices and persistence. The value of the study’s findings depends largely on an exploratory research design, which analyzes the pedagogical practices—practices designed to foster successful transfer from community college to four-year colleges and universities and how students’ innovative capability influences such transfer capacity. The goals of this research are: (1) to explore the pedagogical practices used to support non-traditional students in community colleges to persist in engineering and science majors, (2) to understand whether such practices are effective in offering non-traditional students a program that enables them to stay in engineering and science majors and to transfer to a four year college or university, and (3) to determine if students’ propensity for innovation and creative problem solving influences a particular use of pedagogical practices and ultimately, transfer persistence.
The research targets five research questions:
(1) What are the patterns of pedagogical practices that community colleges employ to enhance students’ transfer success in engineering and science? 
(2) Are there discernable profiles of non-traditional students enrolling in engineering and science majors in community colleges that utilize these pedagogical practices?
(3) How do students’ creative and innovative problem solving approaches influence the choices that they make in using pedagogical support practices?
(4) What are the impacts of pedagogical practices and differences among pedagogical practices, on persistence toward students’ transfer to colleges and universities?
(5) How do students’ creative and innovative problem solving approaches influence their persistence toward transfer to engineering and science programs at 4-year universities?

This research project is intended to study an area and group of students that have been historically understudied, community college students in engineering and science. Further, it builds upon the researchers’ current research in STEM pathways and engineering students’ propensity for innovation, both of which are research areas recognized by the National Academies as areas that engineering education must cultivate in students. The RICHES for Community Colleges project provides rigorous empirical research on students who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education research, thereby advancing the knowledge to higher education research communities.RICHES for Community Colleges has great potential to transform pedagogical support practice for non-traditional students and those who are typically underrepresented in engineering and science. Published results from this research will inform STEM education audiences worldwide. It contributes to the development and improvement of educational opportunities for a underrepresented population of students in engineering and science, thus contributing to preparation of a new generation of scientists and engineers who will play a critical role in maintaining U.S. leadership. The research intends to uncover evidence-based student support practices that can be replicated and will be applicable across STEM fields. The models of support practices are fully exportable to other colleges and universities nationally. The taxonomy created in stage one of the research will have broad applicability for colleges and universities world-wide.

Gisele Ragusa, Ph.D. Professor, Engineering education       
Global Engineering (REE – Globally Prepared Engineers)
In this research we investigate the degree to which international education experiences is being incorporated into undergraduate engineering curriculum and measure its impact on student learning.  Globalization and technology have ‘flattened’ the world; one result is that international experiences have transpired as a critical aspect of engineering education. We foster and adapt ways to measure changes in global awareness, knowledge and thinking. The information and tools developed provide insight into how students acquire such competence and have been disseminated broadly enabling benchmarking and adoption of best practices. The project is conducted by a multidisciplinary team from the Universities of Pittsburgh, Southern California, and Tulsa with input from experts in the field worldwide.
This program addresses two gaps in engineering education: (1) a systematic study of curricular and extracurricular offerings in international engineering education, and (2) how a valid and reliable set of assessment tools may be used to measure students’ learning of critical constructs of international engineering education in preparation for global workforces.  Results will broaden the knowledge base about how engineering students acquire such competence and the contextual factors that influence this acquisition.
In the U.S., more than 400,000 students are enrolled in engineering programs, producing about 60,000 bachelor’s degrees each year. An increasing percentage of these engineering graduates are working in international environments. This study will contribute to the development and improvement of educational opportunities for engineering students to acquire global competence, thus preparing a new generation of engineers who will play a critical role in maintaining U.S. leadership in a global marketplace.
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Affiliation: Gisele Ragusa, Principal Investigator (University of Southern California)

                     Cheryl A Matherly, Principal Investigator (University of Tulsa)
                     Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Principal Investigator (University of Pittsburgh)


GANAS Project – Goals and Needs in Accelerated STEM
Based on a review of best practices for student achievement in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology and East Los Angeles College’s prior successes in designing and implementing Title V projects, goals and objectives were developed in line with STEM-A program guidelines. This project has goals and objectives which directly relate to the absolute priorities of the program (STEM degrees and STEM transfer) and the needs of the targeted population. Activities are clustered in five primary areas: (1) Math Academy, (2) Media Assisted Instruction, (3) Faculty Advising, (4) Transfer Pathways, and (5) Cooperative Transfer Articulations. The project is intended to increase transfer access of community colleges to universities.
Funding Agency: U.S. Department of Education
USC Affiliation:
Gisele Ragusa, Principal Investigator 
                             Armando Rivera-Figueroa, Project Director
Pacific Rim Earthquake Engineering Mitigation Protective Technologies
International Virtual Environment (PREEMPTIVE)

The purpose of this PREEMPTIVE Virtual Institute is to build a community for researchers who share interest in understanding, promoting and accelerating the adoption of protective systems for multi-hazard protection of buildings throughout the Pacific Rim to provide for resilient and sustainable societies. The virtual institute brings together a team of 10 NSF funded investigators, from 10 institutions in the United States and involved in 16 active NSF awards, in the areas of protective systems, to form long term global professional relationships, through a virtual research hub, regular workshops and an innovative educational component, with Chilean, New Zealander and Japanese counterpart teams, others around the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and elsewhere globally, all with complimentary strategies and common interests, supported by their own respective federal research agencies. Recent earthquakes around the Pacific Rim in Chile (M8.8, February 27, 2010), New Zealand (M6.3, February 22, 2011) and Japan (M9.0, March 11, 2011) provide poignant opportunities to explore the seismic and multi-hazard (e.g., tsunami) performance of protective systems and better understand the demands and necessary capacity required of these protective systems. These recent earthquakes have resulted in efforts to adopt and adapt seismic protective systems in the earthquake design codes in the respective countries. Similar discussions are currently occurring in the US; however, multi-hazard resiliency and sustainability remain yet more abstract and human nature often waits until after a large domestic event to actually implement new measures. Close international collaboration through the proposed Pacific Rim Earthquake Engineering Mitigation Protective Technologies International Virtual Environment (PREEMPTIVE) institute intends to influence the protective systems research that US researchers are pursuing to ensure necessary enhancements in capabilities are achieved for the inclusion of protective systems in the US code and implementation before our next large seismic event or other natural hazard. The Institute provides an opportunity to learn proactively from our foreign counterparts to better prepare the US for future hazards: i.e., to be preemptive. The PREEMPTIVE Virtual Institute will teach the next generation of globally engaged researchers, document the performance of protective systems in recent earthquakes identifying, as a global community, specific areas of success and challenges to be faced within the field of seismic protective systems, and accelerate advances in innovative research in seismic and multi-hazard protective systems through enhanced international collaboration. The PREMPTIVE Virtual Institute will transform protective systems research today, by better informing and directing researchers with firsthand experience of performance in the recent major earthquakes and tsunami in Chile, New Zealand and Japan, to ensure necessary enhancements in capability are achieved before the next major hazard event occurs in the US.
   The Institute adopts a distinctly different approach for the protective systems community in the US to better anticipate structural damage from future large earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes, and avert our risk to these events by conducting research now to address the challenges that will facilitate the implementation of protective systems. In this approach, the US protective community, represented by senior researchers, junior researchers, students and practicing engineers, will participate in a virtual institute, focused workshops, and develop and participate in an online learning module all focused on multi-hazard protective systems. The exploratory work to leverage the existing Network for Earthquake Engineering (NEES) and the future Decision Frameworks for Multi-Hazard Resilient and Sustainable Buildings (RSB) framework, together with our foreign counterpart’s hard learned lessons, for the targeted purpose of advancing multi-hazard protective systems will potentially yield a transformative process by which research is conducted. The project is intended to facilitate the discussion and dissemination of current and ongoing novel research perspectives both in the US and globally.  
Principal Investigator: Erik Johnson, Ph.D. Associate Professor, USC
Co- PI : Gisele Ragusa, Professor, USC
Co-PI: Richard Christenson, Associate Professor, University of Connecticut