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CENI Newsletter — May 2021

May 2021 Newsletter

This month we are featuring our community partners from UH 3204: Honors Service Learning.

In June we will share the products service learning students created for our community partners, new submissions to #GoOpenVA, as well as the research, grant writing, and evaluation happenings of the CENI team this year. Please contact Chelsea ( if there is anything you'd like to include in the June newsletter!

Lisa McNair 
Director, CENI and Professor, Engineering Education

Meet the community partners for Honors Service Learning

UH 3204: Honors Service Learning was piloted through the Honors College in Spring 2021. The course was created through a joint effort between researchers on the NSF-funded IUSE/PFE: RED: Radically Re-designing the Fan-in and Fan-out of an Electrical and Computer Engineering Department (RED) team and personnel in the Center for Educational Networks and Impacts (CENI).

Community Partners: Michelle Rasheed, Summer Enrichment Experience at Virginia Tech (SEE VT) Coordinator; Amy Price Azano, Associate Professor of Adolescent Literacy and Rural Education at Virginia Tech, and Heather Wright, Doctoral Candidate in English Education 

Project: Community Building, Engagement, and Cultivating Talent for Rural Students
The Summer Enrichment Experience at Virginia Tech (SEE VT) is planning a one-week residential camp for 2022 for approximately 80 rising rural middle schoolers from high-poverty areas in Central Appalachia to experience rigorous STEM and humanities courses. The program incorporates reflection on what it means to thrive in rural communities through a place framework and addresses topics such as the value of and opportunities in place, community sustainability, as well as issues related to stereotype threat, trauma, and rural poverty. 

Class Contribution: Students are developing social programs to engage rural youth while building community and positively experiencing Virginia Tech’s campus and the surrounding area.

{The Honors Service Learning students designed thoughtful and meaningful projects for our future campers. As a community partner, we were able to provide students with a real-world opportunity and their contributions will have a significant impact on our program.

- Dr. Amy Price Azano } This is a box

Community Partner: Phyllis Leary Newbill, Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, Center for Educational Networks and Impacts, Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology, Virginia Tech

Project: Hokie for a Day
The Center for Educational Networks and Impacts and Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology at Virginia Tech bring together volunteers, researchers, teachers, and 5th grade learners to Virginia Tech through Hokie for a Day. These field trips promote college-going awareness, as well as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning and career opportunities. 

Class Contribution: Students are developing STEM activities for 5th grade learners that align with the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) and can be completed on campus and/or at a distance with a unique Hokie flavor.

Community Partner: Jamie Little, Education Specialist, Radford City Schools and Virginia Tech-Radford City Public Schools Liaison

Project: Promoting Mental Health through Biophelia
Bringing life through plants and nature inside homes, schools, workplaces has been shown to improve mental health. 

Class Contribution: Students are preparing a grant application to bring Biophelia to school aged children in Radford City to improve mental health.

Community Partners: Ian Kimbrough, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Tom Martin, Professor & Bradley Faculty Fellow of Education, Electrical & Computer Engineering

Project: Modeling the Behavior of Neurons Using Electrical Components 
The behavior of neurons can be modeled using simple electrical components such as resistors and capacitors to introduce students to neuroscience. 

Class Contribution: Students are developing an educational, hands-on activity for high school students and first year college students that illustrates the properties of neurons using circuits and other electrical components.

Community Partner: Annie Y. Patrick, Graduate Research Assistant, Reimagining Engineering Design; PhD Candidate, Science, Technology, and Society 

Project: Improving Visibility of and in Electrical and Computer Engineering
The Reimagining Engineering Design (RED) Grant seeks to bring together current Virginia Tech Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) students and underserved, underrepresented, and first-generation students with different life experiences through novel educational outreach opportunities to enhance the contextual design skills and cultural competencies of ECE students. 

Class Contribution: Students are creating a podcast on the experiences of first-generation students for the “Engineering Visibility” podcast series created by Annie Patrick to expand awareness of the Electrical and Computer Engineering field and career opportunities.

Community Partners: Heather Turman, Project HOPE NRV Coordinator, McKinney-Vento and Foster Care Liaison, Montgomery County Public Schools and Jamie Little, Project Hope Coordinator/Homeless Liaison for Radford City Public Schools

Project: Raising Awareness of Homelessness in the New River Valley
There is a lack of awareness of homelessness as defined by the McKinney Vento law among families with preK and school aged children in the rural, New River Valley (NRV) community. Project Hope Virginia, sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education and coordinated by the College of William and Mary provides homeless liaisons in local school districts, including Radford City, and Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, and Pulaski counties. 

Class Contribution: Students are creating a social media campaign to raise awareness of homelessness in the NRV among community members and civil servants.

Call to action: Seeking community partners for Fall 2021

Chelsea Lyles, Postdoctoral Associate for Outreach, Engagement, and Evaluation, will be teaching a service learning class (ENGE 2984: Critical Service Learning) in Fall 2021 through engineering education. The class is open to all majors and will incorporate interdisciplinary, preK-12 educational outreach team projects. If you are interested in learning more about the responsibilities and time commitment for community partners, please contact

Fall 2021 Partner Course Offerings

ENGE 2984: SS Critical Service Learning
Instructor: Chelsea Lyles, PhD (

ENGE 2094: Create!: Ideation & Innovation
Instructor: Lisa McNair, PhD (

ALCE 5704: Systems Thinking Pedagogy and Praxis
Instructor: Hanna H. Scherer, PhD (

Email Chelsea ( to advertise your fall course offerings in the June CENI newsletter.

ICAT Creativity + Innovation Day 2021 - Bridging Physical Distance

Live, online events for ICAT's annual celebration of creativity and innovation at the convergence of science, engineering, arts and design were took place on May 3rd, but recorded presentations are available online.

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