SMART solutions

Program engages tomorrow’s scientists in STEM via stormwater research
The SMART program aims to engage a diverse group of students and teacher-mentors in training for the implementation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in their schools while addressing an important environmental issue. Stormwater runoff is a pressing and expensive problem for most major cities, and the model of the program — STEM solution-focused with diverse citizen involvement — has nationwide applicability and appeal.

SMART solutions

Program engages tomorrow’s scientists in STEM via stormwater research

The University of Maine’s Stormwater Management Research Team (SMART) provides high school students with opportunities to be involved in engineering innovative solutions to stormwater problems.

The program was developed with the goal of broadening participation in STEM through community water research.

Students in the SMART program engage in engineering design, data acquisition, analysis and visualization, chemistry, environmental science, biology, and information technology. Teachers and university mentors support SMART students as they research water issues within their local watersheds, and connect them with professionals working in water and engineering in government, private firms and nonprofits.

Since the NSF-EPSCoR RII Track 3 funded program began in 2014, several Maine communities have successfully implemented the program. In the program’s first three years, 220 students and 25 teachers were trained in the science and engineering of stormwater.

In fall 2016, UMaine was one of 37 institutions nationwide to receive a first-ever award for the National Science Foundation’s INCLUDES program, a comprehensive initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering by broadening STEM participation.

With the two-year grant, the Maine team connected with partners in New York, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Idaho and California to create the SMART INCLUDES Alliance. The partners are designing projects that address the specific water, demographic and cultural needs of each location.

In summer 2017, 60 students and 12 teachers from all nine states participated in the three-day SMART Summer Institute at UMaine.

The program recently expanded to include Hawaii and Texas. A proposal is being developed to continue the work over the next five years by training and impacting hundreds of teachers and thousands of students nationwide.

The long-term goal of the SMART INCLUDES Alliance is to broaden the impact of the successful SMART program model — using the topics of stormwater science and engineering solutions to engage and build confidence of female and underrepresented minority students in STEM fields.

The initiative at UMaine is led by Mohamad Musavi in the College of Engineering and Jennifer Isherwood in the College of Education and Human Development.

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