College of Engineering receives $5 million to support engineering and computer science students across Idaho

Students work on a project
Boise State’s Engineering and Innovation Studio, photo by Allison Corona.

The National Science Foundation awarded Boise State’s nearly $5 million College for Engineers as part of his fellowships in the STEM program, the largest such fellowship awarded to any group of higher education institutions in Idaho. The six-year award will help recruit, retain and create students across the state with $3.6 million in scholarships easier pathways into engineering and computer science careers for students who have limited opportunities for further college entry.

The scholarship addresses the Center for Advanced Energy Studies Scholars Consortium with the College of Western Idaho and the College of Southern Idaho. Over 150 low-income students are awarded scholarships to begin their academic journey before transferring to the state of Boise, where the scholarship will continue to support their degrees.

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“It’s as if an engineering or computer science freshman at these other institutions in Idaho is also a freshman at Boise State,” College of Engineering Dean JoAnn Lighty said. “These grants are critical to the success of our strategic plan to increase the accessibility of our programs to Idaho students, including our community college partners, and to ensure student success.”

Don Plumlee, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, is the principal investigator of the project. He believes the project will help build a cohort-like experience for students across Idaho through an existing relationship Center for Advanced Energy Studies.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Idaho and Boise State as we begin to build a better engineering and computer science education ecosystem through our community college partnerships,” said Plumlee. “New avenues into technical careers will support Idaho’s industry and also have a positive impact on our rural communities.”

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The grant includes a research component to examine how the new pathways being created for students throughout South Idaho will improve self-efficacy, engineering and computer science identity, improve access, and improve retention through the transitions along the pathways . Results is shared with the entire STEM community to support and build collaboration with students and gather insights into the specific majors that attract them.

“We will be able to provide recommendations to better support students interested in STEM careers, even those who never saw themselves suited to these challenging paths,” said Katherine Wright, Associate Professor at the College of Education. “Helping students see themselves as valued members of the STEM community will lead to research outcomes that will transcend Boise State and even Idaho.”

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Boise State’s co-investigators include Wright, Associate Professor at the College of Engineering Sondra Mueller and Associate Director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies David Estrada. The project also includes associate professors from the College of Education and the College of Engineering Karl Siebert, Jerry fails and Kurtis Cantley as well Amy Moll, director of the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering.

Visit the National Science Foundation website for more information on the grant.

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