EAST Program for STEM Students

Internship Projects, USM EAST Program

Recent Internships
  • Creating and Maintaining Software for the Bioinformatics and Intelligent Systems Lab - USM undergrad
  • Antarctic Glacial Ice Genomics - USM undergrad
  • Negative Feedback Regulates Ecdysteroid Synthesis in Manduca sexta - USM undergrad
  • Separation of Biodiesel from Algae - High school senior
  • Investigation of Digital Forensics - USM undergrad
  • Pedagogical Strategies for Engineering Education - USM undergrad
  • Improving Accessibility of Application Forms - CMCC undergrad
  • Research and Modeling of Wind Tunnel Design - High school senior
  • ESP Instrumentation and Analytical Methods - USM undergrad
  • Stirling Engine Experimentation - High school senior
Internships = Apprenticeship, Craftsmanship, Fellowship, Leadership, Partnership, Scholarship

The EAST team at the University of Southern Maine has shown that ‘internships’ are synonymous with many other ‘ships,’ including apprenticeship, craftsmanship, fellowship, leadership, partnership, scholarship, membership, ownership, citizenship, mentorship…

Students with disabilities may not be given equal opportunities to participate in internships because of low expectations and the perception that their condition will interfere with their ability to be successful in a position of supervised practical training and experience.  The National Council on Disability (2004:12) found that “Old attitudes persist as well, and the reform process must change minds, values, and cultures so that we believe all students can achieve to the highest standards.”  Writing in the Disability Studies Quarterly (2001), Briel and Getzel stated that “internship and cooperative education programs can help students to address some of the barriers they will face when seeking employment.  Simultaneously, the attitudes of employers about the potential of individuals with disabilities can be influenced, and even changed.”

Under the leadership of Principal Investigators Dr. Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh and Dr. Jean Whitney, NSF-funded EAST has developed a program of paid internships for high school and college students that has shown how misperceptions about students with disabilities can be changed.  EAST has launched the following ships, with great success:

Apprenticeship.  A high school intern worked as an apprentice to an EAST Undergraduate Research Fellow to build and determine the work output of a sample Stirling heat engine.  At the end of his summer internship the student reflected, “It was my first real job so I learned the importance of meeting a deadline and how to work with other people in this way.  I am glad to have the experience because it confirms that physics is my path.  I enjoyed every minute I spent working so it confirms for me that I have chosen my path correctly.”

Craftsmanship.  Summarizing his summer internship utilizing SolidWorks 3D Computer-Aided Design software to craft and test a Baals wind tunnel, the student said, “I learned how to use SolidWorks efficiently.  Also how long it takes to get something to work properly.  This internship fortified my wanting to become a mechanical engineer.”  

Fellowship.  A Computer Science major benefited from the fellowship involved in becoming part of a team in her department.  She learned HTML and Javascript and used them to design and program a DNA game and app.  Her internship experience helped her to win a Maine Space Grant Consortium award for work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 

Leadership.  An undergraduate took a leadership role with her internship researching digital forensics courses and requirements for possible inclusion in the curriculum of USM’s College of Science, Technology and Health.  She wrote, “I gained more work experience, better research skills, and gained connections with people in the STEM department.  Most of the internship included conducting research on digital forensics, it helped improve my organizational skills.  I now have an idea of what graduate school I’d like to attend, and what courses I should take.”

Partnership.  A senior in Engineering became involved in an off campus partnership project with two start-up production ventures.  Through his internship the student gained skills, knowledge and contacts that helped him secure a private sector STEM job after graduation.

Scholarship.  A Mechanical Engineering major used his internship to develop pedagogical strategies and models to be used in Statics and Strength of Materials.  These are two of the most fundamental courses of Mechanical Engineering.  An article written by the student and professor about their efforts to modify traditional teaching methodology to accommodate a wide range of student needs was presented at the 2012 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference.

These students deal with a variety of physical, neurological, and psychological conditions and yet their biggest barriers are often lack of understanding and low expectations.  EAST internships have proven to be a highly effective means of helping students overcome all their barriers and sail on to success.