Summative Performance Evaluation of a 3-Year NSF-REU Site on Metrology & Inspection
The objective of this paper is to detail the summative performance evaluation of a three year National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site on metrology and non-destructive inspection (NDI), with emphasis on the student gains from the program and changes to participant research self-efficacy. The goal of this REU site was to enhance the knowledge and skill level of a diverse cohort of undergraduates through empowering, hands-on and interdisciplinary research experiences in metrology and NDI technologies. This site was a direct response to a recurring concern raised by industry partners and technical workforce recruiters about the lack of pragmatic metrology/NDI-related knowledge and skills in their incoming workforce. Over the past three years, a total of 30 REU students progressed through and completed the program. Project evaluation involved analyzing participant applications, pre-program and post-program surveys, and tracking the participant progression towards graduate school or STEM careers via the LinkedIn network. An external evaluator appraised whether this site met its recruitment goals, monitored those gains from the program, participant perception of program administration, impact on the career plans of the participants, and also the changes to participant research self-efficacy. Additionally, participants were probed to understand the impact of grouping REU student pairs within a larger vertically-integrated project (VIP) team framework, and to elucidate how the team makeup and dynamics contributed to the overall site objectives. Altogether, the experience, outcomes and lessons learned from this REU site operation are expected to guide the effective and efficient operation of future REU sites as well as undergraduate research projects in general.