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Hazard Mitigation of Civil Infrastructure

The UT Arlington - Spain IRES Site on Hazard Mitigation for Civil Infrastructure, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), will bring together 18 civil engineering and civil engineering-bound undergraduate students (six per year for three years) from several community colleges and universities. Students will be recruited from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), Tarrant County College (TCC), Richland College, Eastfield College, Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), Lone Star College and Paul Quinn College (college support letters provided).

The common theme of the IRES site is "Hazard Mitigation of Civil Infrastructure", for natural, man-made and accidental events. The student summer research projects will be held at AIDICO Technological Institute of Construction, located in Valencia, Spain. AIDICO aims to optimize the capacity for innovation, quality, safety and sustainability of construction companies in order to enhance their competitiveness in domestic and international markets. As a technological partner, AIDICO provides R&D services to improve building materials and systems, and promote energy efficiency, safety and disaster resistance in construction. Six well-planned research projects within the IRES focus area have been identified at AIDICO. The projects will be sub-sets of larger projects that are ongoing in various laboratories at AIDICO with participation from research teams. These AIDICO projects have good correlation with the UTA Disaster Mitigation Group, a multi-disciplinary effort of faculty members and public/private sectors. The Group researchers are 23 faculty members who have generated about $7 million in hazard-related research funding and about 150 publications. The IRES effort will be headed by Dr. Nur Yazdani (PI, UTA Civil Engineering) and Dr. Lisa K. Thompson (Co-PI, PVAMU Education). While Dr. Yazdani will be heading the project and oversee the administration and student research effort overseas, Dr. Thompson will primarily lead the significant assessment activities of the project.

The projects for the proposed IRES site are designed to introduce students to engineering research in a global context. Involvement in hands-on research experiences at a foreign world-class facility and expert foreign mentorship are expected to enhance their awareness of the international facets of the engineering profession, improve recruitment in engineering of students from the above-mentioned institutions (especially from under-represented backgrounds), retention of current engineering students, and motivate them towards graduate studies. The future of engineering (and the world economy, in general) is being framed by global forces which transcend national boundaries, such as the impacts of globalization, rapid technology advances, climate change and hazardous extreme events (Bourn and Neal 2008). The world is rapidly transitioning from one of nationally differentiated organizations and cultural identities to one increasingly characterized by transnational institutions and multicultural communities (Shouwen 2008). A national summit meeting on the Globalization of Engineering Education, held in Newport, Rhode Island in 2008, emphasized the importance of engineering education in the U.S.A., how it is falling behind in relation to those in other developed countries, and the need for globalization (Grandin and Hirleman 2009). The need for cultivating learning environments in order to stimulate student learning in undergraduate engineering programs is well established (Gardner 1999, Johnson and Johnson 1994; Lowman 1995; Timpson and Bendel-Simso 1996, Timpson 1999), as is the need to increase the number of students selecting engineering fields (Briller et al 2004, Freeman 2001, Veenstra et al 2009). The proposed IRES Site will allow the IRES students hands-on experience in hazard mitigation research and applications in an international setting, thereby aiding in producing globally aware engineers. The IRES project will be beneficial in attracting U.S. citizens and permanent residents to engineering careers and graduate studies; the latter is populated mostly by international students in the U.S.A. The national attrition rate after four years of undergraduate study is around 40%, which can be reduced through undergraduate research experience (Zydney et al 2002, a, b).

Objectives and Outcomes

The objectives of the proposed IRES project are to: (1) expose the IRES students to international level, high quality and focused research experience related to hazard mitigation of civil infrastructure with foreign expert mentorship; (2) increase the awareness of the selected IRES students on the importance of global professional engagement, international engineering networking and the world-wide criticality of research on hazard mitigation; and (3) recruit and train students into the IRES program, especially from under-represented groups, in order to attract and retain them in engineering programs, and also to motivate them towards graduate studies. These objectives will be achieved through the planned activities whose effectiveness will be determined by the success of the following associated measurable outcomes. Pre- and post-survey of student participants through an on-line survey system (described later), as well as qualitative and quantitative data, will be used to assess the extent to which the IRES student participants attain the various outcomes. Success measures for each of these outcomes are further described in the "Evaluation and Reporting" section.

  1. Exposure to International Research: Students in the IRES project will actively participate in the summer research projects to be held at the AIDICO facility in Valencia, Spain, specifically designed for the IRES project. They will effectively participate in the research projects that are sub-sets of larger research projects already underway at AIDICO. The students will work under the guidance of famed foreign experts from AIDICO who are already involved in the larger projects. The unifying theme of the research projects is "Hazard Mitigation of Civil Infrastructure".
  2. Global Awareness: IRES participants will demonstrate increased awareness of the global nature of today’s engineering profession through their involvement in the IRES project. They will also gain an understanding of the importance of professional networking at the international level through the foreign networking opportunity offered by the IRES project. IRES participants will be given opportunities to demonstrate their ability to apply knowledge gained through the IRES projects to “real world” problems of critical international nature in the area of hazard mitigation of civil infrastructure.
  3. Recruitment and Retention: This IRES program will aid in and/or bolster recruitment and retention in engineering degree programs of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, especially those from under-represented groups. The program will enhance the student’s potential to eventually pursue graduate degrees through exposure to high quality research, information on graduate studies and mentoring.