EECS graduate student Walcott presents novel program to AAAS annual meeting

February 19, 2008

MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science PhD candidate Aisha Walcott SM '04 presented a novel program which she helped found in 2003 to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS, held in Boston Feb. 14-18.

Walcott's presentation was based on a paper titled "The Academy of Courageous Engineers: A Model for Supporting Minority Students in the Completion of Science and Engineering Degrees." She was joined by fellow MIT graduate students and ACME alumni who gave a demonstration of some of the features of the ACME program.

As described in the Feb. 16, 2008 MIT News Office article, the ACME framework includes web technology, weekly face-to-face meetings and a research seminar series. It also features a forum for addressing inherent aspects of the graduate student experience such as building advisor/advisee relationships, leveraging collegial networks and selecting good lab environments.

The ACME web-based system was designed by MIT EECS PhD candidate Eric Brittain, who studies educational technology. The system is used for managing and tracking goals specific to achieving graduate degree milestones. Users can also share comments and personal and peer progress.

According to Walcott, a specialist in robotics, the ACME program has broad applications for any graduate student body since support and goal setting are universal challenges. Students participating in ACME have specialized in disciplines including aeronautics and astronautics, architecture, biology, chemistry, computer science, mechanical engineering and operations research.

The theme of the AAAS meeting, "Science and Technology from a Global Perspective," emphasized the power of science and technology as well as education to assist less-developed segments of the world society. The meeting also focussed on ways to improve partnerships among already-developed countries and spur knowledge-driven transformations across a host of fields including global issues such as climate change, health, energy, environment, development, and education as well as frontiers in fundamental and applied science.

For further information, see:

AAAS annual meeting homepage

MIT News Office, Feb. 16, 2007 article titled: "Major science conference to feature MIT speakers".

The abstract for Walcott's presentation is listed below.

A major obstacle for minority students completing graduate degrees in science and engineering is a lack of support system. The purpose of this paper is to introduce the Academy of Courageous Minority Engineers (ACME) - a group designed to retain and enhance the experience of minority graduate students by facilitating and supporting programming geared toward completion of graduate degrees in multiple disciplines including electrical engineering, computer science, media arts and sciences, biology, and urban studies. While support or accountability groups are not a new idea, ACME strives to make this process systematic and focused through a web-based system, ACME Online that allows members to post and track their personal goals and comment on the goals of other members. Weekly forums are held to discuss and provide constructive feedback on the content of and progress toward research goals as well as discussion topics related to graduate school success including time management, preparing for qualifying exams, and advisor-advisee relationships. In another component of ACME, monthly lunch series are held to provide a diverse and supportive environment for graduate students to present research ideas, problems, papers, or results, and receive feedback from their peers in a range of disciplines. This paper will describe the technological infrastructure, management, and responsibilities of the members of ACME as well as information directly related to student success.