Susan Brown, associate professor and director of the STEM Outreach Center at New Mexico State University’s College of Education, is a member of a leadership team that will research nature-inspired soil engineering as part of a $55.5 million National Science Foundation grant.
Last month, NSF officials announced the grant to fund three new Engineering Research Centers to create novel technology platforms and transform industries. The centers will address national challenges in energy, sustainability and infrastructure, and collaborate with international university partners and American technology companies to conduct translational research and prepare U.S. engineering students to successfully participate in the global economy.
Brown is part of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics, or CBBG, which is led by Arizona State University in partnership with NMSU, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California, Davis.
“I am the Pre-College Education Director and will facilitating the integration of the grant’s STEM information to the pre-college age group,” Brown said. “In other words, we will be studying the research of the researchers and developing lessons that are age appropriate and reflect the research. As the lessons are developed and piloted, they will be disseminated nationally.”
Brown said CBBG will provide professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers in order to impact more students. Nicole Delgado of the STEM Outreach Center will be the Diversity Program Coordinator for the NMSU campus.
“We want to encourage underrepresented groups of students to join bio-geotechnical engineering and she (Delgado) will be working with the program coordinators at the other three sites,” Brown said.
The CBBG will investigate natural underground biological processes to engineer the ground in ways that reduce construction costs and environmental impacts, while mitigating natural hazards and existing environmental degradation. Transformational new ground engineering methods will improve the sustainability and resiliency of civil infrastructure systems, including bridges, buildings, underground construction and research exploration.
“Since 1985, NSF’s ERC program has established extensive, multidisciplinary collaborations to create technological breakthroughs for new products and services such as surgical robots, mobile communication, renewable energy and advanced prosthetics,” said Don Millard, acting division director for the NSF Division of Engineering Education and Centers.