The University of Akron will host a national conference aimed at ensuring underserved students have access to opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the conference is part of the NSF INCLUDE (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) initiative, taking place March 8-10 at Quaker Station in downtown Akron.
With the theme, "Biomedical Engineering: A Platform for STEM Outreach," the conference is expected to draw almost 200 K-12 teachers and academics from across the nation. Through workshops and speakers, attendees will explore why participation lags among underrepresented racial, ethnic and socioeconomic students and how to make science more enticing and relevant to them.
"The University of Akron is ideally situated to host this conference since we are so closely situated to some of the world's best medical institutions and medical device companies," states Dr. Brian Davis, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UA. "We are also very fortunate to have national organizations including the Biomedical Engineering Society, American Society of Biomechanics, American Society of Materials and Society for Biomechanics, Bioengineering and Biotransport all involved with the conference."
Drs. Davis, Rouzbeh Amini and Carin Helfer from UA's Department of Biomedical Engineering were awarded a $250,000 National Science Foundation grant to host the three-day event at the University. A focus of this year's conference will be to examine ways to increase underrepresented students in biomechanics, biomaterials, biomedical engineering and other STEM fields.
Keynote speakers include Frank Douglas, M.D., Ph.D., Andrea Johnson J.D., and Jill L. McNitt-Gray Ph.D. The LeBron James Family Foundation, NASA Glenn Research Center, and the non-profit organization Facing History will be presenting at the conference.
"Facing History is a world-renowned education and professional development organization that focuses on breaking down barriers as they relate to racism and prejudice," continues Davis. The Cleveland office of Facing History will have a session on Wednesday, March 8, which is an abridged version of their usual multi-day workshop designed to help increase teacher effectiveness in stimulating students in underserved urban areas.
Davis, Amini and Helfer are among the first group to receive this funding from the NSF, based in part for the profile and success of the department's annual Bridging Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) Medicine engineering fair. BEST is Northeast Ohio's premier event devoted exclusively to students interested in exploring biomedical engineering, bringing together the most talented and innovative students to interact with each other and with leaders in medical device research and development. This year's BEST event, held at the NIHF STEM Middle School in Akron, follows the NSF INCLUDE conference on Saturday, March 11. There are 140 K-12 students registered from around NE Ohio who will design projects using an engineering approach to solve a medical problem.
UA students are involved with the logistics of the events. They will also be staffing a National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) booth at the meeting, and presenting a BEST Medicine session on Friday, March 10.