Current News

Aug, 2009: PACER 2009 Images and Videos Posted. Click Here to view them.

July 27, 2009: PACER-03 Preparing for a Launch Tomorrow

July 29, 2008: PACER-02 Launched

July 31, 2007: PACER-01 Launched

The Physics & Aerospace Catalyst Experiences in Research (PACER) Program for Minority Institutions Project Summary

The “Physics & Aerospace Catalyst Experiences in Research (PACER)” project is being developed in response to science and engineering (S&E) workforce assessments by the National Science Board and other U.S. institutions that attracting and retaining students into S&E careers is of paramount importance if the U.S. is to maintain its technology lead. Further, to support a high technology economic future, today’s students also need research experiences that emphasize practical skills, techniques and methodologies that are directly applicable to the development of future science and engineering projects and products. Finally, the greatest opportunity to expand the nation’s pool of technical talent will likely come from efforts focused on women and minorities.

The PACER Project works to address these issues by providing an intensive 9-week summer research experience program for teams (faculty member plus 3 students) from minority institutions and continuing to partner with each institution for multiple academic years as they establish a research experience program for their local students. In this context, the specific objectives for PACER include: 1) Attract students from the ranks of minorities and women to science and engineering programs, 2) Provide students with a research experience that builds skills, techniques and methodologies applicable throughout their science career, 3) Establish a core of expertise at multiple minority institutions around which a local sustainable student research experience program can develop, and 4) Nurture and mentor these institutions as they implement their student research experience program.

  The immediate goal of the PACER Program is to enable minority institutions to establish a research experience program for their students. In many cases, the level of federally supported research projects at such institutions may be insufficient to expose most students to state-of-the-art research. An established PACER program helps fill this gap and provides the institution with a mechanism for preparing and motivating their students to continue with an S&E career. We expect that PACER will be able to impact about 5 to 10 students per year per institution or about 100 to 170 minority students over the full three-year term.

   In 2007, NSF funded a pilot version of PACER to test and evaluate some of the program concepts. The pilot consisted of two summer programs (2007 and 2008) and three years of academic year support (2007, 2008 and 2009) during which we started three institutions (one in 2007 and two in 2008). The summer program used established materials to guide the teams while they built skills in electronics, real-time programming, design and management which they will then applied to the design, fabrication and operation of a small science experiment that was carried to the Edge of Space by a helium filled sounding balloon. The pilot was highly successful and we are now starting our second academic year support.