(Engineering Projects in Community Service) EPICS High

(Engineering Projects in Community Service) EPICS High

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

EPICS High aims to meet critical educational needs of introducing high school students, especially females and underrepresented minorities, to science, technology, engineering and math, fields that are often lacking in high school curriculums, particularly in economically disadvantaged schools. EPICS breaks down economic barriers to equal opportunities by offering high-calibre education, connecting students with service to their community, and encouraging students toward greater educational goals. The program projects provide a rich context to explore broader social issues, developing the next generation of leaders equipped with the knowledge to work toward social justice and equality.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

EPICS High specifically works with 9th – 12th graders and their teachers. We serve a diverse student population that is nearly gender balanced and represents a mix of urban, suburban and rural schools. Our teacher demographics closely reflect the students with a mix of male and female, representing a mix of subject areas. The populations served by the EPICS projects range from senior citizens to infants, and from educational institutions to hospitals and senior citizen facilities. Thirty-nine schools in 10 states have established or are establishing programs. A 2009 survey indicated EPICS is significantly impacting minorities and lower-income students. Of the more than 1,700 in the program, 37% are from underrepresented populations, far surpassing current numbers of minority groups in collegiate engineering and computing programs. Forty-two percent of the participants are female, and over 38% participate in the free and reduced lunch program. Significantly higher than the national average. A major focus of EPICS High is on educating high school teachers, advisors and administrators. We believe we can be most successful in addressing the shortage of underrepresented minorities and women in the STEM fields by providing mentors and role models within their everyday environment. Utilizing a network of alumni and corporate volunteers, community organizations and local school corporations we are able to maximize the success of our programs.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The last two decades have seen a decline in the interest of engineering and computer science among high school students. Among those entering college level engineering and computer science programs, women and minorities continue to be greatly underrepresented, compared to the overall population. EPICS addresses these concerns by promoting engineering-based service learning opportunities to all students. All course participants learn to: communicate effectively; develop communication skills in order to both receive and disseminate information; problem-solve; utilize mathematical and log skills; deliver multimedia presentations; learn and retain; complete design practices and understand design principles; understand the importance of effective planning; understand and use equations, formulas and graphs to meet project objectives; provide leadership; and work as a team member. Students leave EPICS with the skills needed to prepare them for careers in the STEM fields. Unlike similar programs (Project Lead the Way, 1st Robotics, Project Learning Tree) EPICS incorporates a community aspect to all projects in an affordable format. We provide a set curriculum that focuses on STEM principles, a wide range of projects and a flexible format to fit in the curriculum or as an after school program. EPICS has been successful in engaging women and under-represented minorities where other programs have failed.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

EPICS High projects address local community challenges through non-profit service. For instance, students at Frederick Douglas Academy, Harlem, NY are working on three projects integrating engineering with service to their community: 1) aquaponics system in Harlem Senior Center, 2) water quality sampling station for the East River, 3) robotics projects for local middle and elementary schools. These projects help reduce or eliminate barriers affecting student’s performance in school and their families’ ability to support their education. EPICS High supplements limited school resources; provides career-focused mentoring through corporate teams that work with students on service projects; creates community connections with non-profit agencies forming meaningful partnerships, and creates a direct way for well-intentioned community members to participate in secondary education. EPICS addresses critical areas in academic standards including math, science, and language arts. EPICS is innovative in integrating technology with these standards and at the same time motivate students through the use of hands-on, project-based learning. In collaboration with IEEE and the STEM Academy we have adapted the lesson plan from the highly success EPICS University to make it appropriate for high schools. Using a model of service-learning, EPICS introduces engineering in a non-traditional setting, allowing for better accessibility across all demographics. EPICS provides a circular model that moves past traditional community projects and into long-term community-school partnerships.
About You
Purdue Univeristy College of Engineering EPICS
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Purdue Univeristy College of Engineering EPICS

Organization Phone


Organization Address

701 W. Stadium, West Lafayette, IN 47906

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

EPICS was co-founded by Leah H.Jamieson,Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering/John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering at Purdue, and former Purdue faculty member, Edward J. Coyle. The motivation behind the program is to enable students to connect engineering and computing design with local community needs. While interest in engineering has been declining, civic engagement among teenagers is near historic highs and many honors diplomas now require service. EPICS High is providing an opportunity to tap into the wave of volunteerism while working to interest more students in STEM fields.

Leah received a BS from MIT and a MA, MSE and Ph.D. from Princeton University. In 1976 she joined the faculty at Purdue, where she served as Director of the Graduate Program in Electrical Engineering from 1990-94, Director of Graduate Admissions from 1994-96, Interim Head of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2002, and Associate Dean of Engineering for Undergraduate Education from 2004-06.Leah has been recognized by the Chester F. Carlson Award for Innovation in Engineering Education, and by the American Society for Engineering Education and the IEEE Education Society’s 2000 Harriet B. Rigas “Outstanding Woman Engineering Educator” Award.She was one of the first seven recipients of the NSF Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, was inducted into Purdue’s Book of Great Teachers, and was named 2002 Indiana Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

EPICS High has established a national network with a presence in 10 states. 200 teachers were trained this past year, engaging 1,875 students in design teams that have impacted over 253,000 people. The EPICS High School Program model of engineering-based service-learning is connecting STEM careers (such as engineering) with making a difference in the local and global community. The EPICS model is helping students to develop the broader set of skills called for by the National Academy of Engineering’s Engineer of 2020 including leadership, communication, teamwork, and awareness of ethical and societal issues.

EPICS High participants currently consist of 37% underrepresented minority and 42% female students, significantly higher than the national average of 15% underrepresented minorities and 19% females.

Of the 1,875 students who participated in programs this past year, 63% responded that they were more likely to pursue a career in engineering after participating in EPICS High. Among underrepresented minorities, 86% were motivated as well as 70% of females. 27% of students responding had no interest in engineering when starting in EPICS. 47% of those had a strong interest in engineering after a year of EPICS with 53% of females changing to a strong interest.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

A core component of EPICS High is the training for teachers and administrators to implement EPICS High at their own schools. Summer training at Purdue is the cornerstone of the training program. Regional trainings in Massachusetts, California and Texas have become more important as many teachers are limited in their ability to travel to Indiana. A total of 200 teachers were trained this past year from 110 schools. Our goal is to provide scholarships so that more teachers can attend training sessions either at Purdue or one of the regional sites. By increasing the number of teachers participating in the training we increase the number of schools implementing EPICS . Multiplied over three years, we are providing countless opportunities for high school students across the country.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The largest barrier to the success of our program continues to be the downturn in the economy. In a time when many schools are faced with eliminating athletic and fine arts programs to meet budget cuts it is difficult to propose creating and sustaining a new program. It is also difficult for the schools to find the financial resources to support their faculty attendance at the week-long training program. To address these issues EPICS High solicits corporations and foundations for grants that are then distributed to the high schools for teacher scholarships and program development. We also provide participating schools with assistance in fund raising with local corporations and organizations to underwrite their projects.

EPICS High is a relatively new program and as such we are faced with competing for grant dollars against traditional engineering outreach programs with established reputations. Support from nationally recognized funding sources will give us the visibility necessary to continue to attract philanthropic dollars.

Tell us about your partnerships

EPICS High continues to form creative partnerships with educational and professional organizations. Our most recent agreement with IEEE will allow us to pilot programs in India, South America, South Africa, as well as additional U.S. sites.

SEANet (State Education Agency K-12 Service-Learning Network) is a national network of professionals committed to advancing school-based service-learning initiatives in K-12 schools across the country. SEANet members are directors, coordinators, specialists, and staff working in a State Education Agency, or in an organization designated by a State Education Agency. SEANet and EPICS High have partnered to utilize SEANet’s network of coordinators to support a large-scale rollout of EPICS High.

Partnerships are also under development with The STEM Academy and The SquareOne Education Network. The SquareOne Education Network is dedicated to engaging students in the exploration of engineering, science and mathematics. They provided grants to K-12 classroom teachers for hands-on STEM initiatives, including EPICS projects. The STEM Academy is focused on the creation and implementation of K-12 engineering curricula and instruction. The STEM Academy provides EPICS with an opportunity to partner with an organization that shares the same commitment of improving the STEM education of all students.

Other collaborations include professional societies such as; the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women in Engineering, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

Explain your selections

EPICS High was created with the support of a $1.5 million grant from the Corporation for National and Community Science’s Learn and Serve America. Since that time the program has received support from a variety of sources including the National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard M. Gordon Award for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education, private and corporate foundations, and Purdue alumni. Corporations also provide team sponsorships that allow the projects to be completed at no cost to the participating community not-for-profits. Since it began, EPICS High has received over $5.1M in federal grants and $5.5M in corporate and alumni support.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

In 2009, EPICS High developed a 5-year strategic plan.
1.To create and disseminate sustainable EPICS High models through teacher development.
Activity:At least 3 regional teacher trainings held outside of Indiana with 750 teachers trained.
Activity:Training for regional site coordinators & trainers to support schools in their regions.

2.To create and distribute a curriculum to teach engineering & design at the high school level through service-learning.
Activity:EPICS High curriculum distributed to all schools attending training.
Activity:Development of EPICS High distance learning training tools.

3.To increase student awareness of, and interest in engineering & computing fields and service-learning opportunities in STEM fields.
Activity:Engage engineering professional society members in schools and communities.
Activity:Engage at least 3,000 students in EPICS High classes/activities.

4.To implement an assessment and research plan to measure the impact of EPICS High.
Activity:To establish recurring data collection from all active EPICS High schools.
Activity:To survey students completing the program to gathering data on how EPICS has changed their perceptions of STEM fields, & affected academic and future career choices.

5.To develop sustainable sources of funding to administer & grow the EPICS High program on a national level.
Activity:To secure the funding to support EPICS High administration, including staff needed to support large-scale growth.
Activity:To secure seed funding for 50 new programs.

Partnerships and Accountability
Please tell us more about how your partnership was formed and how it functions. What specific role does each partner play? What unique resources does each partner bring to the initiative?

Mike Brugh is the service-learning coordinator for California’s Department of Education, and is also a national leader in the field. He continues to push EPICS as the model for California’s K-12 service-learning efforts, and is also helping EPICS to connect to major players in other states. Mike has collaborated with EPICS High administrators in writing several proposals and in presentations at conferences across the country. Mike’s expertise and connections will benefit this project a great deal as will his experience with regionalized trainings and his work with schools and teachers.
Cathleen Barton has served on the EPICS Advisory Board and aided efforts to grow the program at both the university and high school levels. Through her position at Intel Cathleen is able to serve as an advocate of the EPICS model within corporate, higher education, and political arenas. Cathleen’s ability to offer limited funds to schools in areas of geographic interest to Intel will help seed new programs. Cathleen is very committed to the EPICS model and is always in search of opportunities to grow the program.

How are you building in accountability for students' successful STEM learning outcomes? Please provide a summary and examples.

EPICS High has tools in place to assess the overall effectiveness of the program with clearly listed educational standards to be met through the curriculum. To assess the overall EPICS experience for students, EPICS High has created an on-line student survey. The survey identifies changes in students’ perceptions and interests in STEM fields. Focus groups and student interviews are also being utilized. Results from a survey of 1,875 students participating in 2010-11 include:
•63% of students responding were more likely to pursue a career in engineering after participating in EPICS High. Among underrepresented minorities, 86% were more motivated as well as 70% of females.
•27% of students responding had no interest in engineering when starting in EPICS.47% of those had a strong interest in engineering after a year of EPICS with 53% of females changing to a strong interest.
In training, teachers are provided with templates and on-line resources that can be utilized in grading students in both team activities and individual work. Resources include:
•Design notebooks
•Presentations – Oral or written
•Reports – Including project documentation
•Delivered projects – manuals, education materials or any other information required to go out with the project
•Written reflections
•Team project plans
•Customer or partner feedback form

The EPICS High curriculum being utilized by school is broken into 5 modules consisting of 9 weeks of lesson plans per module. Listed within each module of the EPICS High curriculum are the learning objectives and national academic standards met by that module.
Module 1 – User-Centered Design example:

Learning objectives
Describe the phases of the EPICS design process.
Describe activities, decisions, and artifacts produced during the design process phases of project.
Identify several design constraints and how they might impact a design.

National Academic Standards met
Technology Standard 3: Students will develop an understanding of the relationships among technologies and the connections between technology and other fields of study.

Technology Standard 9: Students will develop an understanding of engineering design. This standard will be linked to the review and discussion of the design process, as it is presented to the students, and as a handout in the participants’ binders and in reviewing the text.

Math Standard: Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates – develop fluency in operations with real numbers, vectors, and matrices, using mental computation or paper-and-pencil calculations for simple cases and technology for more complicated cases.

Language Arts Standard 4: Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g. conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

Language Arts Standard 5: Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.


Investment, Human Resources/Talent.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add needs that may not be listed.

EPICS High is a collaborative program that relies on the investment of financial as well as human resources to support the growth and sustainability of the program. Mentors guide our students through the various engineering projects; networking allows us to maximize our resources and the resources of our partner agencies; marketing and media would improve our visibility thereby increasing the number of participating schools and funding opportunities.


Human Resources/Talent, Research/Information, Collaboration/Networking, Innovation/Ideas.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add offers that may not be listed.

EPICS High has the expertise in STEM education and service-learning to assist other organizations in creating programs of their own to address this critical need in education. It should be noted here that EPICS High takes many shapes and forms and is not limited to the high school environment. The principals of EPICS High can be incorporated in to any arena that provides services to high school aged students.