This project aims to educate skilled science technicians, thus supporting Minnesota's goal of developing a high-tech industry corridor between the metropolitan areas of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The project will expand and enhance the College's Science Technician Associate of Science (AS) degree program. To increase the placement of Science Technician AS graduates directly into the workforce, the project will: infuse science technician skills into required courses; develop a job and internship center; formalize partnerships to increase access to internship experiences; and develop an industry-relevant capstone research experience for all Science Technician AS students. The project intends to broaden participation in the science technician AS program by adding a biology track and using targeted outreach and dissemination. As a result, this project has the potential to broaden participation in STEM careers.
A major goal of the project is to include capstone projects for all students in the Science Technician AS program. To this end, it has already established agreements from at least six academic or industry partners to provide internships for up to 14 students per semester. The internships include traditional off-campus opportunities as well as on-campus opportunities in which scientific equipment at St. Paul College will be used for research and development needs of industry partners. The project includes a mixed-methods evaluation plan that will be conducted by external experts. Quantitative indicators will include data from ongoing national surveys in which the College currently participates, disaggregated program and course enrollment and completion counts, and the results from surveys designed specifically for the evaluation of this project. Qualitative data will be collected through semi-structured interviews with mentors at industry partner firms and faculty members, and through focus groups with current and former students. Students participating in the Science Technician Program will also compile research portfolios that can be assessed for program improvement purposes as well as to evaluate individual student progress. Project results will be disseminated at conferences and in peer-reviewed journals, contributing to understanding the impact of project-based education and authentic assessment. It is expected that this project will improve the success of students in the science technician program and strengthen connections between the College and businesses and industries in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area. This project is funded by the Advanced Technological Education program that focuses on the education of technicians for the advanced-technology fields that drive the nation's economy.