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NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC)

The Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC) is a NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC), founded in 2008, which is focused on advanced manufacturing for sustainable biobased chemicals. The CBiRC evaluation is supported by the National Science Foundation under Award No. EEC-0813570.

The CBiRC evaluation provides formative and summative information by utilizing a broad range of methods and data collection at multiple points of program implementation. Evaluation includes pre- and end-of-the program and 6-month follow up surveys of program participants and mentors, focus group discussions, and longitudinal tracking of students’ involvement in research. Key data sources include Center directors, research team and program leaders, students (undergraduate and graduate), postdoctoral research associates, faculty and scientists, 6-12th grade teachers and students, and mentors involved in research experiences.

A major focus of the evaluation is on activities related to the pre-college programs, university educational programs, and diversity. The CBiRC pre-college education program evaluation includes the Young Engineers and Scientists (YES) program for high school students, the GO! Further summer workshop for high school students, a Summer Academy for middle school teachers, the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program for high school teachers, the Transportation Institute for elementary school teachers (InTrans), and the Transportation Institute for high school teachers (InTrans). University Education Program evaluation activities include the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, annual center-wide assessment for all CBiRC undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the graduate minor in Biorenewable Chemicals. The evaluation of CBiRC diversity includes interviews with project PIs, surveys of students and alumni, and surveys of students who participated in special events that introduce CBiRC and related research.

The evaluation plan is meant to be flexible and responsive to changes in project direction and undergoes a continuous review throughout the year to address emerging needs, ensuring the evaluation is aligned with program objectives. Evaluation deliverables include annual evaluation reports, interim evaluation reports, and survey, interview, and focus group instruments and protocols. Timelines for submission of materials and reports are determined by specific program activities and Center and federal reporting guidelines.

Associated Publications

Virtual education center for biorenewable resources: Humanizing distance education

Why they leave: Understanding student attrition from engineering majors

Implementation strategies for a large, multi-institutional REU program and key actions of successful summer research mentors