The project provides a unique opportunity for talented but financially disadvantaged high school students from Southeastern Massachusetts to enter and complete an innovative education program in computer science, civil, mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering disciplines at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth (UMD). Residents of Southeastern Massachusetts are going through a major economic transition that resulted from almost total loss of textile industry in the United States. This region was once one of the richest communities in the nation, but it is now home for mostly working class population with first generation college attendees. UMD is well known for providing one of the best undergraduate engineering programs in northeast United States. However, it still loses the battle for attracting highly qualified students who cannot afford college on their own.
UMD has developed a strategic plan to play a major role in the economic revival of the region. As part of this plan, the University has established an Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center (ATMC). ATMC assists technology based companies in the region to develop new products and processes and helps them commercialize university- developed technologies. While ATMC has a staff of professionals, it also employs a good number of student interns who function as junior engineers on its projects.
This project combines internship opportunities available at the ATMC with an NSF supported Foundation Coalition program that has been established for freshmen and sophomores in the College of Engineering at UMD. This combination provides a unique educational opportunity for students with financial needs. Students admitted through CSEMS spend their first two years in the College of Engineering's integrated math/ science/engineering curriculum and are supported by NSF scholarships. In their last two years, they join the ATMC as interns. During their ten hours a week internship at the ATMC, CSEMS students are not only gain invaluable experience, they also earn internship salaries that are higher than what they receive during the first two years work study program. With this plan, CSEMS students are trained similar to that of medical school students who get experience in teaching hospitals.
In order to take maximum advantage of this scholarship program, we plan for a project cycle of six years funded by a combination of NSF and private industry. During the first three years we admit three cohorts of twenty students each. By the end of the four-year NSF project period, each student is supported by NSF funds for the first two years of his/her education. During the last two years, each student is supported by industry projects at ATMC. To accomplish the objectives of this project a partnership has been developed with eighteen of the area high schools, and a contact person has been identified for each school. All schools have expressed their enthusiasm to identify qualified students for this program. In addition, a set of programs and activities has been planned to add to the exceptional features of this project.