Published: April 18, 2022 By

Hannigan and Knight
Professor Michael Hannigan and Research Associate Daniel Knight.

Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty have received another University of Colorado Boulder Outreach Award for their work with rural K-12 schools in Colorado.

Department Chair Michael Hannigan and Research Associate Daniel Knight will be using the $24,000 grant to expand their outreach program that educates K-12 students about air quality and emissions. They are conducting the work with Professor Joseph Polman, the Associate Dean for Research in the School of Education.

The Soil Quality InQuiry (SQIQ) project will allow students from five Western Colorado schools in the Delta County, Mesa Country Valley 51 and Lone Star districts to conduct their own soil quality research. CU Boulder will provide the curriculum, soil quality monitors, and student mentors from College of Engineering and Applied Science to support the K-12 classes.

SQIQ will begin in fall 2022, when CU Boulder mentors enroll in the program. Then in November, the soil quality monitors will be delivered to the five high schools.

Mentors will help the students with their soil quality projects during monthly visits in spring 2023. SQIQ will culminate with the high schoolers presenting their projects with scientific posters at school symposiums in March or April.

The goal of SQIQ is to enrich STEM education opportunities in underserved rural K-12 schools. Hannigan and Knight explained that many of these rural areas struggle to attract science teachers and have little engineering education available to students.

SQIQ also provides opportunities to connect with community members in these rural areas such as farmers, ranchers, coal miners and local businesses – each of whom are stakeholders in the push for cleaner air.

Hannigan and Knight also plan to connect with government agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, environmental organizations like the Western Slope Conservation Center, and student development organizations such as Contigo that supports immigrant families.

Other partners on this project include faculty and students from Western Colorado University and Colorado Mesa University, since both partner universities are closer to the targeted school districts.

SQIQ is an expansion of the group’s ongoing outreach projects titled “Air Quality Inquiry Program” (AQ-IQ) and “Science-Engineering Inquiry Collaborative in Rural Colorado” (SCENIC), which both aim to create pathways for STEM education in rural Colorado. AQ-IQ based projects have received an Outreach Award every year since 2018.

On top of being awarded another grant this year, Knight will also be the speaker at the Office for Outreach and Engagement’s annual awards banquet in April 2022.

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