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A Pipeline of High Achievers to STEM Program

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Community Engagement Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Ravi T. Shankar Florida Atlantic University

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Ravi Shankar has a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, and an MBA from Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL. He is currently a senior professor with the Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department at Florida Atlantic University. His current research interests are on K-12 education, engineering learning theories, and education data mining. He has been well funded by the high tech industry over the years. He has 7 US patents, of which 3 have been commercialized by the university. This research work is a collaboration with the Children's Services Council of Broward county in FL.

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Francis Xavier McAfee Florida Atlantic University

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Francis X. McAfee, Associate Professor in the School of Communication & Multimedia Studies at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) merges his background as a ceramic sculptor and printmaker with new digital technologies. After graduating with a BFA in Art in 1989 he joined the Florida Center for Electronic Communication (CEC) as a lead artist creating animation for applied research projects. These computer animated films were nationally and internationally screened in New York, Chicago, Hollywood, San Francisco, and Tokyo in industry recognized competitions as the International Video Art Competition, the New York Festivals, and the American Film Institute.

McAfee is also active in web-based virtual reality projects. His research includes digital archaeology of a deteriorating ancient tomb in Sicily to help preserve and visualize its’ characteristics for future study. His collaboration with Florida International University’s International Hurricane Research Center showed how certain roof construction materials may become projectiles during high wind events. For the FAU Center for Environmental Studies’ Sea Level Rise Summit McAfee lead a student team to produce a short animated video showing what might happen to the neighborhood around the Miami Freedom Tower if sea level rises to its full potential impacts. The video was picked up by National Public Radio and other media outlets. In 2007 he helped visualize the research of FAU’s Ocean Engineering using animation for a competition for a State of Florida Center of Excellence. FAU won the completion and has since been named as a national research center, Southeast Regional Marine Renewable Energy Center. Since 2009 he has collaborated with colleagues in Computer Sciences and other colleges to form cross-disciplinary student teams that create software applications for Android mobile devices.

McAfee compliments his professional activities with volunteer service for ACM SIGGRAPH. He served on their executive committee as Director for International Chapters and has organized local Fort Lauderdale chapter events for over 20 years.

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Diana Mitsova Florida Atlantic University

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Diana Mitsova has a background in research design, statistical and spatial analysis, as well as environmental planning and modeling using geographic information systems, and interactive computer simulation. Her primary area of research involves the impact of urban development on ecosystems and other environmentally sensitive areas.Her recent publications focus on the impact of climate-related stressors on coastal communities and the implementation of planning approaches related to enhancing coastal resilience to natural hazards. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Park Service through FAU Environmental Sciences Everglades Fellowship Initiative, USGS, and The Nature Conservancy.

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Summer Scarlatelli Museum of Discovery and Science

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 Summer Scarlatelli, STEM Center for Education and Career Development Manager , creates and conducts programs for school groups, grants, community outreach and camp-ins that introduce basic science concepts and enhance the STEM content of the exhibit experience. She coordinates with Broward Schools to ensure museum activities support Common Core standards. She is currently working with United Way of Broward County and Florida Atlantic University engaging high school students in mobile app development and the Community Foundation on an afterschool program for low performing middle school students. Ms. Scarlatelli has a Master’s degree in Environmental Education from Florida Atlantic University. Previous experience includes the Miami Seaquarium and 5 years as a K-12 science teacher at Fort Lauderdale Preparatory School.

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Too often, the demands of academic science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs dull students’ enthusiasm and destroy their academic self concept (ASC) and confidence. However, the popularity of science museums around the world is a notable testament to humans’ enjoyment of scientific discovery. We provide here a process to invigorate the interest of America’s most talented students in science degrees via a community outreach program with one’s local science museum. We address this critical need to recruit students into STEM programs by (1) building robust affect-informed support for their knowledge construction during immersion experiences with a local science museum and (2) engaging them in teams in the development of smart phone applications relevant to science exhibits. We have recruited 36 high-achieving, high-scoring high school students for each of the past two years, thanks to a grant to our local science museum by a major nonprofit organization. There were an equal number of boys and girls, and both groups were representative of our multi-ethhnic demographics and large under-represented minorities. During the internship academic year, these students participated in an immersion experience at the science museum. They formed teams of 3 and focused on a specific exhibit and learned its’ scientific, educational, and community relevance. During the ensuing summer, these teams enrolled in a 3-week intensive course on app development at our university. They developed an Android app based on that museum exhibit. This course was co-taught by two professors one each from engineering and arts. A group of judges, comprised of professionals from the industry, academia, and community, evaluated the team presentations and ranked the apps based on a rubric. We have completed 2 years of this 3 year grant. During each of the summers, students were given pre-course and post-course questionnaires which measured learning outcomes for multiple attributes. Knowledge gains were assessed on a Likert scale from 1 to 5 where 5 indicated the highest level of self-reported improvement. The results indicate significant knowledge gains in all team and technology skills emphasized in the course. During the second year, we sought to tease out the impact of the museum internship on the overall gains made. We will present these results in the paper. Our approach is derived from two theoretical models with strong emphasis on student involvement in the learning process: active student engagement and project-based learning. Both approaches assume active student participation in learning practices where exchange of ideas, extensive collaboration, and synergies are essential. Smithsonian Institution recently suggested that mobile should be understood as social media and projects should leverage its ability to create conversations, communities, and collaborations This requires a museum community that will share code, tools, and best practices with a reusability focus. We follow this philosophy. We use only open source tools and student apps are available for free access as Github repositories. A platform independent app development methodology has also been developed now.

Shankar, R. T., & McAfee, F. X., & Mitsova, D., & Scarlatelli, S. (2017, June), A Pipeline of High Achievers to STEM Program Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27496

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