Asee peer logo

A Study On The Effectiveness Of An Innovative Research Program For Urban High School Students

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Gender & Minority Issues in K-12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.117.1 - 13.117.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

LaRuth McAfee Case Western Reserve University

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Study on the Effectiveness of an Innovative Research Program for Urban High School Students

Abstract In the United States certain ethnic groups are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. National Science Foundation and Census Bureau data show that, while the population of Blacks and Hispanics in the United States is 12% and 13%, respectively, in STEM undergraduate programs these groups only account for 8.5% and 7.2% of the student population. This lack of minorities in STEM undergraduate programs also impacts the potential graduate student STEM population, where Blacks and Hispanics compose 5% and 4.8% of the populations. These numbers have increased slightly over the past decade, but are still significantly lower than where they could be. By making STEM fields more appealing and accessible to minority students, their representation in undergraduate programs should rise to more closely agree with that of the overall population. Further, this increase should positively affect the minority population in STEM graduate programs and professional careers. Considering the expected growth in STEM jobs over the coming years, an increase in STEM- educated minority professionals will be extremely beneficial to the country’s international competitiveness.

To increase minority high school students’ interest in STEM, the Polymer Envoys Program, an innovative outreach program, has been developed and is being piloted. This program features a two-year research internship where urban high school students are matched with a graduate student mentor, and participate in STEM research during their junior year, the summer between their junior and senior years, and their senior year. A study is being used to determine the effectiveness of this program. Issues considered include the initial selection of student participants, the experiences of student participants while in the program, the related academic choices students make while in high school, and the post-program choices students make regarding college and major.

Evaluations indicate that this program has had very positive results in its initial phase of implementation. While many students initially indicated minimal experience with research and technical communication, in one year all have made significant improvements. This change was self-reported on surveys, and observed in the oral and written communication assignments completed by the students. Additionally, positive changes were observed in students’ academic and career aspirations through their experiences in the program. Students initially indicated interests in obtaining no higher than Master’s degrees in a variety of fields, but now all have expressed a desire to earn doctorates in STEM disciplines. One student also started taking math and science classes at the local community college based on the encouragement of her graduate student mentor and her greater understanding of opportunities to better prepare for college. Another student’s research data is included in a technical paper currently in preparation.

Further studies of the program will include tests to determine how effective recently implemented program content is in supporting the students. Additionally, since a key goal of the program is to encourage and prepare students for STEM degree programs, the number of

McAfee, L. (2008, June), A Study On The Effectiveness Of An Innovative Research Program For Urban High School Students Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3410

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015