The world's population is aging and the resulting prevalence of chronic illnesses is a challenge that our society must address. Our vision is to address this challenge by designing a curriculum for undergraduates in MSTEM fields that provides them the needed research skills to address this looming problem. Undergraduates in nursing, psychology, sociology, computer science, engineering (MSTEM) programs as well as those in healthcare-related disciplines need a strong multi-disciplinary background to be truly prepared for research in applying technology to gerontology issues. The objective of this project is to develop training programs for undergraduate participants in the fields of gerontology, and technology-based assistive environments. This will be done through course work, summer research programs, internships in the field, and professional workshops to help other institutions develop similar programs. The ultimate goal is to bring up a generation of new graduate student researchers and innovators who understand the need of continued work in the field for addressing the aging population issues and begin their research careers prepared for gerontechnology oriented research. We hypothesize that by developing a these new programs for training both undergraduates and fellow educators in the issues surrounding the aging problem, multi-disciplinary MSTEM approaches to tackling these tough issues, and supporting undergraduates in becoming prepared for graduate programs we can provide gerontechnology-related research groups across the nation with highly qualified applicants. The rationale of the proposed work is that there are few well integrated MSTEM programs for undergraduates and a lack of training in related research programs for new undergraduates available. Our group's research centers on this field, and our research team is interested in developing generations of qualified graduate students who come prepared for this highly complex field of research. To accomplish this, we plan to pursue the following specific aims: (1) Develop an undergraduate two semester (one academic year) multi-disciplinary MSTEM Gerontechnology course series, (2) Establish a summer research and internship experience program for highly qualified undergraduates, (3) Support senior capstone projects in MSTEM fields, especially for those students who wish to continue their work from the Gerontechnology course, (4) Integrate the Gerontechnology course into the existing Minor in Aging offered at the institution, giving it its first technology related course. We will also create a certificate of accomplishment for all students who have completed the Gerontechnology course and who have completed additional field experience related to gerontology, and (5) Lead and run two workshops for others interested in learning about the latest research in the field, plus training for other educators in the field of Gerontechnology so they can bring similar programs online at their institutions. The proposed work is innovative because Gerontechnology related undergraduate programs with a true multi-disciplinary core are rare. The combination of serving both the local student body, summer students from other programs, and to also bring our faculty's experience to other institutions through workshops is a compelling and energetic approach to bolstering the quantity of highly prepared upcoming graduate researchers. The project is significant because it will introduce many undergraduates to the issues faced by our society in the coming decades, as well as prepare many of them to help develop new approaches to health care through melding technology with traditional medical approaches.
The proposed project is a multi-faceted approach to undergraduate education and preparation for graduate level research in the field of Gerontechnology. The result of this project will be to educate groups of undergraduates in a multidisciplinary manner to prepare them for graduate school and research careers in the field. Additionally, the proposed workshops will bring in other researchers, teachers, and industry members to help spread knowledge about this field and its long term impacts on our society. This program is relevant because it will expand the ranks of eldercare researchers in the fields of engineering, computer science, sociology, nursing, psychology, and others relevant to healthcare and MSTEM disciplines.