NSBE Executive Director Karl W. Reid, Ed.D., and NSBE Senior Director of Programs Greg Meeropol were among the award recipients at the first annual conference of the Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD), in Crystal City, Va. Dr. Reid, Meeropol and four other authors received a Best Paper Award at the CoNECD Conference on May 1, for their work titled “Maximizing Accessibility: Providing Summer Engineering Experiences for Racially, Ethnically, and Economically Underrepresented Youth.” Cherie D. Edwards, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate in engineering education at Virginia Tech, is the lead author of the paper.

The organizers of the CoNECD Conference touted the event as “the only conference dedicated to all the diverse groups that comprise our engineering and computing workforce.” The conference, held at the Marriott Crystal Gateway, April 29–May 2, provided “a forum for exploring current research and practices to enhance diversity and inclusion of all underrepresented populations in the engineering and computing professions.”

“Maximizing Accessibility” spotlights NSBE’s Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program as a rare example of an effective, objectively evaluated, national-scale outreach program designed to provide out-of-class engineering learning opportunities for youth in low-income communities. The paper provides an overview of the strategies employed by NSBE to reach low-income students via SEEK, and it examines the challenges faced and lessons learned in implementing the program.

The remaining three authors of the paper are Walter C. Lee, Ph.D., assistant professor of engineering education at Virginia Tech and assistant director for research in Virginia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity; David B. Knight, Ph.D., assistant professor and assistant department head for graduate programs in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech; and Trina L. Fletcher, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Dr. Fletcher is a former director of Pre-College Programs for NSBE.

Dr. Reid says he’s gratified to see the knowledge NSBE has gained through SEEK to become a resource for the broader community to increase diversity in STEM. “Maximizing Accessibility” is part of an ongoing study funded by the National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. NSBE, Virginia Tech and Purdue University were awarded three ITEST grants totaling nearly $2 million in 2016, to expand and enhance NSBE’s SEEK program. Dr. Reid is principal investigator of the NSBE-Purdue-Virginia Tech project, and Dr. Knight and Dr. Lee are co-principal investigators. The three-year ITEST award of $1.08 million to NSBE is the largest federal grant in the Society’s history.

“Thanks to the NSF for its support of our work, thanks to Dr. Edwards for her leadership in the writing of this article, and, of course, thanks to CoNECD for acknowledging our efforts to bring more low-income students and students of color to the engineering profession,” says Dr. Reid.