Miguel Velez-Reyes, Ph.D., left, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso, received one of 14 awards from the NASA Minority University Research and Education Project to encourage the development of a coalition aimed at broadening participation in engineering. The project's co-principal investigator is Robert C. Roberts, Ph.D., right, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. | Photos courtesy UTEP

NASA MUREP grant awarded to UTEP; Will encourage participation of Hispanic Students in Engineering

The University of Texas at El Paso will aid the establishment of a coalition aimed at broadening participation by Hispanic students in engineering through a grant awarded by the NASA Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP).

Miguel Velez-Reyes, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and George W. Edwards Jr. El Paso Electric Distinguished Professor in Engineering, received one of 14 planning grants to fund a collaborative effort to complete the initiation and planning phases for the Coalition for Innovation, Education and Research in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Hispanic Serving Institutions (ECE@HSI).

The proposed ECE@HSI alliance supports broadening participation in electrical and computer engineering among Hispanic students, in alignment with the goals of the National Science Foundation Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES) initiative. The goals of the ECE@HSI are to promote dialogue by involving academic institutions and stakeholders to effectively address issues associated with broadening participation in ECE. The alliance will provide evidence-based strategies to support Hispanic students at critical stages in the ECE academic pipeline to improve recruitment, retention and degree completion at Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

“The technology created by electrical and computer engineers has great impact in improving society’s quality of life and has shown to be particularly critical in these challenging times due to COVID,” Velez-Reyes said.

“The planning grant will foster the creation of an industry-academia-NASA alliance focused on providing access and supporting the success of Hispanic students in ECE and providing more opportunities for faculty at ECE departments in Hispanic-Serving Institutions.”

For this endeavor, Velez-Reyes leads a team comprised of Robert C. Roberts, Ph.D., assistant professor of ECE and R. Noel Longuemare and Julianna Longuemare Faculty Fellow. External collaborators include Rafael Rodriguez-Solis, Ph.D., professor of ECE at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez Campus (UPRM), and Miguel Goenaga-Jimenez, Ph.D., associate professor of engineering at Universidad Ana G. Mendez (UAGM) – Gurabo Campus.

UTEP and UPRM are among the top four producers of degrees awarded to Hispanics in engineering. UTEP and UAGM are Inclusive Engineering Consortium (IEC) member institutions.

IEC is a nonprofit organization comprised of minority-serving institutions working together to advance the ECE enterprise. IEC is providing the backbone support to this effort. The three academic partners have a strong history of collaboration with NAS.

The NASA MUREP planning grant will support workshops to study best practices in ECE and start building the coalition of ECE departments, industry and members of the NASA enterprise that will lead to the establishment of ECE@HSI.

Author – Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications