The Equity Thrust includes researchers with expertise in K-12 engineering education and engineering educational research, community engagement, institutional and systems theories of change in pursuit of equity in higher education, culturally sustaining mentorship in engineering, assessing technologies using Indigenous epistemologies, air quality modeling and environmental justice, and civil engineering and transportation justice.
The equitable realization of EVs in society requires a workforce that has experience and expertise in recognizing and redressing environmental and transportation injustices. It also requires a technologically-literate citizenry that understands the potential benefits of EVs and can advocate for equitable EV infrastructures within their communities. Developing such a workforce and citizenry requires equitable learning environments that: (a) provide inclusive and expansive opportunities for people from underrepresented groups to pursue trajectories within EV careers, and (b) have learning environments that prepare the EV workforce of the future to more fully foreground equity in their work. The Equity Thrust was formed to create and distribute such opportunities and environments.
Historically, many transportation systems and technologies have disproportionately benefited the white middle class, while at times actively harming People of Color. The widespread implementation of EVs and EV infrastructures must not reproduce these inequitable outcomes. To advance equitable implementation of EV technologies, ASPIRE is researching how various stakeholders can partner together to realize (a) equitable physical structures (e.g., roadway placement); and (b) equitable social structures for governance and decision-making relative to the physical structures.
An equity-focused research team was formed under the Learning & Engagement Project. The team has implemented new research and mentorship programs that has participants from multiple disciplines across all projects. Data from these programs are being collected over time as part of ASPIRE’s longitudinal work into whether its approaches contribute to positive outcomes among mentors and mentees, especially those from historically minoritized racial/ethnic groups.
The team also developed a comprehensive school-based curriculum in which middle and high school students engage with environmental justice concepts and use engineering to design solutions that advance environmental justice through EVs. Researchers from across the Projects are developing material in support of this curriculum which is being implemented in public schools attended primarily by Latinx students.
Partnerships with organizations such as Utah Clean Cities are being used to better understand the health impacts of proposed technologies and hurdles for adoption. This is then impacting how the charging stations of the future concepts can be applied within communities structured around multi-unit dwellings.