Undergraduate research experiences, which are highly promoted and supported by NSF and other agencies, present a great opportunity for our students to learn essential problem solving skills. The National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program is one of the largest initiatives supporting active research participation by undergraduate students in all of the areas of research funded by NSF. The REU program, with more than 600 sites around the world, presently funds over 1000 active awards, totaling over $327 million. From these active REU awards, 384 (38% of the total active awards) are related to engineering (determined by having ‘engineering’ as a keyword in the title and abstract) and account for about $170 million, about half of the total amount of awards to date. In spite of such widespread support and belief in the value of undergraduate research, limited well-grounded research and evaluation studies exist [1]. Most of the existing literature reveals the predominance of program descriptions, explanation of models, and evaluation efforts, rather than studies grounded on research. Only recently have research and evaluation studies focused on assessing the benefits of undergraduate research [1–8]. Some of these benefits are (a) retention for underrepresented groups, (b) increased interest in the discipline, (c) gaining critical thinking skills, (d) increased self-confidence, and (e) clarification of career goals. Moreover, most of these studies on undergraduate research have focused on the sciences, whereas undergraduate research experiences in engineering have been understudied.

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