GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 187-13
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM-6:30 PM


KAR, Aditya, MS, PhD1, HOLMES, Tiffani1, TABER, John2 and HUBENTHAL, Michael2, (1)Chemistry/Geology, Fort Valley State Univ, 1005 State University Dr, Fort Valley, GA 31030-4313, (2)IRIS Consortium, 1200 New York Ave NW Ste 400, Washington, DC 20005-3929

The digital age has ushered the largest and fastest creation of wealth ever recorded in human history, yet the digital gap is widening at an alarming rate, and Covid-19 pandemic issues disproportionately affected people of color and disadvantaged populations together with the HBCUs and MSIs that serve them. Fort Valley State University (FVSU), is a rural HBCU in middle Georgia, where regional challenges caused by poverty and inequity contribute to minimal production of STEM graduates and STEM teachers from the local communities. Additionally, the geosciences are the least diversified field of all STEM degrees earned by African Americans. To help address these issues, FVSU has formed partnerships internally between disciplines and externally with organizations and institutions of higher learning. One such effort has resulted in a recent funding of a National Science Foundation’s GEOPAths collaborative grant between FVSU and IRIS consortium. The team created a summer intervention research program for FVSU STEM students and pre-service STEM teachers. The research is designed for a student to explore the scientific method with a hi-tech geophysical instrument, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). In the first year of the project, summer students were introduced to GPR theory, field techniques, data collection and analysis to probe the shallow subsurface for hidden structures. Of the FVSU students that participated, all were African Americans, of both genders, with majors (STEM and middle grades science). Students' changes in perceptions and gains in learning towards science and in particular geoscience data was collected using survey instruments. The initial analysis of intern responses were very encouraging in design and implementation of the program, and increase in their confidence to perform scientific tasks. A minor in geosciences being developed through this program was received positively by the students. For science education major, participation in the program led to higher confidence to be a better STEM teacher. Increasing the digital knowledge by training URMs with hands-on hi-tech instruments and using cutting edge software to interpret and analyze data will help reduce the digital gap and enhance diversity in STEM including geoscience and STEM education. Technical literacy will lead to digital equity and thus access to higher paying jobs resulting in financial gains for individuals and economic prosperity for this rural region in turn promote more equitable solutions to environmental challenges.