ERC Pre-College Programs Increase Student Interest and Enrollment in STEM

Achievement date: 

The Nanomanufacturing Systems Center (NASCENT), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at the University of Texas at Austin, has reached more than 37,500 students through its pre-college programs. The Center has engaged pre-college students and middle and high school teachers on STEM through research-based programs since 2012.


Through the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program, 51 teachers developed curricula educating more than 6,000 students interested in STEM careers. Out of participants in the NASCENT Fellows program, 39 out of 40 former high school students are pursuing STEM degrees, and one is working at Samsung Austin Semiconductor after attending trade school.


The goal of the Center’s pre-college programs is to create a pipeline of diverse, creative students from middle through high school with laboratory research experience who enter college STEM degree programs.

The NASCENT Fellows program is an engineering summer research program designed for students in grades 10 to 12. Each summer, local high school students are selected to join graduate and undergraduate students for seven weeks of laboratory research. Partnerships with several schools have increased the participation of women in the program to 60 percent and underrepresented minorities to 56 percent. The RET program allows both middle and high school teachers to work in NASCENT labs alongside graduate students. The teachers create STEM curricula based on their research to take back into their classrooms.