Funding, Grants & Awards
Rochester Institute of Tech Grant Aims To Improve STEM Equity for Middle, High School Students
Edward Brown, associate professor of engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New
York, has been awarded a $25,000 grant for an initiative designed to increase the number
of male African American students participating in science, technology, engineering and
math (STEM) fields.
The initiative, called The Brashear Project, will expose middle- and high
school-aged students to the field of engineering through design projects
related to rehabilitation and assistive robotics, according to information from
the university. Rehabilitation robotics is Brown's area of expertise, and he
said he believes he can connect young African American males to the field through the
issue of gun violence.
"The number 1 cause of spinal cord injuries for African American males,
particularly between the ages of 15 and 30, is gun violence," said Brown,
an associate professor of electrical and microelectronic engineering at
RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering, in a prepared statement. "For every individual who dies due to a gun assault, there are between
three and six others who are wounded. Many of those wounds result in the
individual being paralyzed and permanently wheelchair-bound. These are the
invisible men of inner city America, and there are large populations of these
men in every major city."
Brown plans to organize meetings between student participants and African
American males with spinal cord injuries from gun violence to provide the
students with a social and cultural context for their engineering robot design
activities. Brown will also work with the student participants to examine how
careers in STEM fields can help individuals and communities.
"What would happen if I brought this experience of interpersonal gun
violence — that happens to be culturally relevant and unique to this
particular population — into the STEM classroom? How might that enhance
their learning and appreciation of robotics and engineering as a whole?"
said Brown in a prepared statement.
Brown will use the grant to "fund preliminary studies toward designing the
learning objectives and hands-on activities for the project as well as
recruiting participants," according to a news release from the university.
As part of his research, Brown studies how robotics can help people with
physical disabilities perform everyday tasks such as opening a bottle or
grasping a pen.
The Brashear Project is named after Carl Brashear, the United States Navy
master chief who lost his leg during a demolition operation off the coast of
Spain and then continued to serve in active duty. Brashear became the first
African American master diver in 1954 and the first amputee to be re-certified
as a Navy diver. Brown met Brashear during his graduate studies at Vanderbilt
University and said he was inspired by the man's story.
Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].