Navajo Technical University Awarded $2,497,230 to Increase Pathways to STEM Careers

Student Cyrus Leopold Norcross tinkers with a LED light project in Navajo Technical University’s Electrical Engineering Fundamentals I course. NTU recently received a NSF grant that will increase pathways to careers in STEM fields.

Student Cyrus Leopold Norcross tinkers with a LED light project in Navajo Technical University’s Electrical Engineering Fundamentals I course. NTU recently received a NSF grant that will increase pathways to careers in STEM fields.

Published October 11, 2015

CROWNPOINT, NEW MEXICO – On September 25, 2015, Navajo Technical University was awarded a five-year National Science Foundation grant totaling $2,497,230 to support efforts in increasing access to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) by pairing dual credit opportunities with online education.

The project titled, “The Navajo Technical University Pathways to STEM Careers Project,” will seek collaboration with local high schools to offer a Pre Engineering course that could be taken for both high school and college credit. The course will be offered online, so in addition to opportunities for high school students, any interested adult with a high school diploma may begin the process towards earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.

According to NTU electrical engineering instructor Dr. Peter Romine, in carrying out the grant, NTU will be researching all methods and obstacles in the area of online education and identifying effective solutions for carrying out the dual credit program. High schools involved with the project will begin in New Mexico since several dual credit agreements are currently in place, but NTU has already begun working with several high schools in Arizona to increase the program’s reach.

NTU electrical engineering instructor Dr. Peter Romine works with student Hanson Tapaha in constructing a land rover. Before coming to NTU, Dr. Romine taught electrical engineering at Alabama A&M University in addition to years of experience working with NASA and the U.S. Army. Dr. Romine earned his PhD from the University of Alabama-Huntsville in Electrical and Computer Engineering and his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa.

NTU electrical engineering instructor Dr. Peter Romine works with student Hanson Tapaha in constructing a land rover. Before coming to NTU, Dr. Romine taught electrical engineering at Alabama A&M University in addition to years of experience working with NASA and the U.S. Army. Dr. Romine earned his PhD from the University of Alabama-Huntsville in Electrical and Computer Engineering and his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa.

“Our goal is to address the entire reservation, but because of distance we’re going to start with schools closer (to Crownpoint),” explained Dr. Romine. The grant will span over five years, paying out nearly $500,000 annually to NTU. Grant monies will be utilized to hire additional personnel including another electrical engineering instructor, a dual credit coordinator, equipment for the high schools, and additional e-learning support.

NTU’s Electrical Engineering program currently has about 25 students enrolled, more than double than last year. According to Dr. Romine, the majority of the program’s students have funneled through NTU’s Electrical Trades certificate program and Energy Systems associate degree, while others came back to school after experience working in the professional field.

One such student is Hanson Tapaha of Balakai Mesa, AZ – just north of Steamboat – who enrolled in NTU’s Electrical Engineering program last year after working several years as an electrician.

“Going to college was intimidating to me,” reflected Tapaha, whose father was a lineman journeyman for over 30 years with NTUA.  “I didn’t want to leave the reservation at the time so I went to work.”

“I think (the Electrical Engineering program) is fun,” Tapaha continued. “When you do something you care about it’s fun. It doesn’t seem like work. When you put your heart into it, it makes things simple. I always wanted to be an electrical engineer.”

With the grant, Dr. Romine hopes to make such dreams possible for residents throughout the Navajo Nation. “I want the program to be attractive to all types of students,” stated Dr. Romine. “Those straight from high school, those who gone in the trades and worked, and those looking for a new career. We need to inspire people to become designers, engineers and inventors.”

Navajo Technical University’s Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering requires 135 credits and is structured to prepare students to design and improve electrical, electronic, and computer systems. The program combines practical exposure to the most modern technologies available with a theoretical foundation that empowers students to master future changes and innovations as technologies continue to evolve. The program has three concentrations: computer engineering/digital systems, electric power and energy systems, and manufacturing.

For more information about Navajo Technical University’s Electrical Engineering program, please contact Dr. Peter Romine at promine@navajotech.edu or visit our website at www.navajotech.edu.

 

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