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Be A Scientist: Family Science for Minorities

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

It Takes a Village: Engineering Beyond the Classroom

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.241.1 - 23.241.9

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Paper Authors

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Luz M Rivas Iridescent


Dara Olmsted Iridescent

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Dara holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Harvard University and a Master’s in Environmental Policy and Urban Planning from Tufts University. She has taught science overseas and at Harvard, worked for a watershed association, helped to make Harvard more sustainable, run farmers’ markets, and directed Harvard’s Food Literacy Project.

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Be A Scientist: Family Science for MinoritiesBe a Scientist! is a five-year longitudinal study, sponsored by the National Science Foundation,where engineering students in LA and NYC teach hands-on “Family Science” workshops tounderserved families with children in grades one through five. Begun in 2010, the program aimsto identify scalable methods of engaging minority audiences in STEM and keeping thoseaudiences engaged for many years through a blend of online and face-to-face programs. Thispaper will share findings from two years of multi-method evaluations using both quantitative(surveys) and qualitative (observations, interviews, and instructor logs) methods. Preliminaryresults have found that the program is making significant impacts on the parents, children, andengineers. At the same time, the evaluations have found ways of continuously improving theprogram so that it can scale and impact more families cost-effectively. Be a Scientist! is acollaboration of a non-profit, universities, and science museums.Findings include:Children • Children are learning new concepts and vocabulary and actually remembering them weeks and months after the class is over. In fact, three quarters of children reported that since taking Family Science, they have a better understanding of science and engineering. • Children said they share their knowledge with their siblings and friends after they learn something interesting in the Family Science class. The children feel empowered to share what they know with others. • Some children have been inspired to become scientists. They have gained confidence in their scientific knowledge and ability. • 75% of children reported now being more interested in science at school.Parents • 78% of parents reported that they understand science and engineering better and 67% said they were more confident talking about science and engineering topics with others. • There are more science related activities going on at home such as building things out, playing with science kits, watching science programs, and going to museums and zoos. 89% of parents also say they will read more science books with their children. • Parents are more confident because their children see them as people who know things, who can build things and who can solve problems.Engineering Students • Students commented that they learned practical skills like critical thinking, creativity, public speaking, and collaboration skills that they didn’t necessarily learn in other classes.• Because they were communicating with an audience with little engineering background, the students learned how to simplify their language and break down complex content into simpler concepts.• Students were “inspired” by the multiple and varied designs of the children in the Family Science class; it reminded them that there is rarely just one right answer to a problem.• Seeing the children’s excitement and fascination with building and designing reminded some of the students why they became engineers in the first place. It reminded them of the fundamental enjoyment of creating things and taking them apart. Being reminded of these base emotions was inspiring and motivating for the engineers.

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