Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) Program Site: Connecting with Community Colleges


Beginning in June 2011, the UMD Department of Materials Science offered a three-year summer program for regional community college faculty designed to increase both the success of students with associate degrees who transfer into the James Clark School's engineering programs and the interest of community college students in STEM classes and opportunities. The National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program, "Connecting with Community Colleges," has developed strategies and materials for implementing new curricula in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses at the 100-200 levels and strengthened institutional relationships between community colleges and the University of Maryland. The most successful strategies incorporated active learning and examples that tied difficult concepts to engineering applications of interest to the students. Many of the participating community college faculty members have shared the materials they developed on the Curriculum in a Box (LINK) section of this website.

The program recruited three cohorts of 8-14 professors each year from seven Maryland community colleges: Anne Arundel, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's. Each faculty member attended a six week, interdisciplinary summer program where they conducted research with Clark School faculty and developed ways to bring the latest concepts in technological innovation into their existing courses. Additional activities included weekly seminars to develop curriculum elements; lectures on ethics, safety, entrepreneurship and intellectual property, teamwork and informed discovery; and round-table discussions with Clark School faculty and staff about promoting interest in STEM majors to new undergraduates and ensuring a smooth transition for those who transfer to the university.

An academic year follow up program helped participants to implement their curriculum elements and evaluate its effect on their students. It included online discussions about curriculum implementation and two half day workshops for participants to discuss their results and exchange course materials.


The purpose of this NSF Research Experience for Teachers in Engineering program was to increase the interest of community college students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research and innovation. The goals of the project were to:

  1. Engage community college faculty in cutting edge research
  2. Design relevant classroom materials based on the research experience of the community college faculty with the intent to foster student awareness, interest, and preparation for STEM academic studies and careers
  3. Build relationships between community colleges in Maryland and the A. James Clark School of Engineering to facilitate the successful transition of Associate Degree students into the University of Maryland

*Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.