IRIS National Undergrad Student Competition

Overview
Program Element / Activity Title:
IRIS National Undergrad Student Competition
E/PO Project Name:
IRIS
Program Element / Activity Website:
Short Description:

This project is a yearly nationwide undergraduate student team competition to design and build spectrographs. It is targeted at under-represented students.

Audience Metrics
Who is the primary audience of your program element / activity?:
Who is the secondary audience of your program element / activity?:
Evaluation
What are the goals and objectives of your program element / activity?:
Goals: 1) Provide a NASA mission-like experience that will contribute to workforce development in fields related to the IRIS mission, focusing on students from minority serving institutions, community colleges, and universities with less aerospace activity. 2) Utilize the National Space Grant network to recruit a set of diverse participants and interdisciplinary teams. 3) Through Competition activities, increase the relevance of STEM research and education in the participants’ communities, drawing on cultural ties and modern networking. Objectives: 1) After the conclusion of the Competition, at least 60% of participants indicate that the experience increased their interest in education and careers related to the IRIS mission. 
2) After the conclusion of the Competition, at least 60% of participants feel that they developed practical skills. 3) After the conclusion of the Competition, at least 60% of participants feel the experience improved their ability to work as a team, be confident in their independent work, and implement creative ideas. 4) At least 10% of participating teams are from institutions with no active NASA student projects. 5) At institutions with active NASA student projects, increase the number of participants in those and other NASA projects by 20%. 6) Each year of the Competition, at least 50% of the participants are female or an underrepresented minority. 7) Each year of the Competition, at least 28 teams participate. 8) Each year of the Competition, at least 95% of the teams participate in a community outreach activity.
What are the main impacts of your effort to date and how do they correlate to the project's goals and objectives:
Assessment after the first competition shows that these objectives have been met or exceeded. Key NSSSC findings (with data from the first two years; N=68 surveys completed):

1) 96% of participants strongly agreed (78%) or agreed (18%) that working on an interdisciplinary team was a valuable experience.
2) 100% of participants strongly agreed (95%) or agreed (5%) that participating in NSSSC provided opportunities to learn and practice practical skills related to science and engineering. 

3) 87% of participants strongly agreed (66%) or agreed (21%) that they expect more attractive education and career opportunities as a result of the experience they gained in the Competition.

4) 84% of participants strongly agreed (56%) or agreed (28%) that participating in NSSSC increased their interest in pursuing a STEM-related career. This statistic is particularly compelling because it indicates the Competition had an effect on career choices rather than the students already having decided on a STEM career, as is often the case with participants in other STEM competitions.

5) 100% of the participants strongly agreed (74%) or agreed (26%) that interacting with the judges at the Competition was valuable.

6) Increased interest in STEM careers, increased interest in the IRIS mission, increased practical science skills, increased interest in getting involved in STEM opportunities, increased creativity, increased education and career opportunities, increased team work experience.

7) Our evaluation data shows that 100% of the participants strongly agreed (74%) or agreed (26%) that interacting with the judges at the Competition was valuable. 
Many of the judges are NASA IRIS mission scientists and engineers.