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Board 109: What Activities and Practices Sustain the Engagement of Highly Diverse Communities of Young Engineering Students in an Out-of-School Fellowship Program?

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Priya Mohabir New York Hall of Science

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Priya Mohabir has been with New York Hall of Science for 18 years, starting as an Explainer - a floor facilitator - and working her to up to lead NYSCI's youth development initiatives. Priya's experience as an Explainer shaped her outlook on the countless possibilities of making STEM education exciting for children as she was climbing NYSCI's Science Career Ladder With this experience as a foundation, Priya has grown into a leader at NYSCI, contributing in numerous capacities. In July 2014, Priya became the Director of the Alan J. Friedman Center for the Development of Young Scientists where she develops and leads youth development initiatives, crafts strategy to ensure the Center's sustainability, and oversees all aspects of the Career Ladder. As the current Vice President of Youth Development, Priya continues to lead the development and research of programs and activities that allow youth across NYC to see STEM as a potential career pathway.

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Satbir S. Multani


Katherine McMillan Culp New York Hall of Science

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Katie McMillan Culp is Chief Learning Officer at the New York Hall of Science. She is a developmental psychologist with twenty years experience leading research and development initiatives and applied research studies focused on equitable, high quality teaching and learning for all young people. At the New York Hall of Science, Dr. Culp leads collaborative, multidisciplinary teams to design, develop, implement and study experiences, tools, and media that help highly diverse groups of young people discover their own identities as scientists and engineers. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education and the Intel Foundation. Dr. Culp is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Amherst College (1988) and holds a PhD in developmental psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University (1999).

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This paper reports on the process and findings of an action research project that engaged a diverse group of high school youth who were participants in an engineering design fellowship at a major urban science center. Participants were trained in action research techniques, explored the “engineering habits of mind” (National Research Council’s Committee on Understanding and Improving K-12 Engineering Education in the U.S., 2009) as a framework for understanding their own work with visitors to the science center, and investigated how informal learning experiences can serve as pathways toward engineering for young people from under-represented backgrounds.

This project was designed to provide insight into the programmatic structures and practices that engage students from under-represented backgrounds with the perspectives and ways of thinking, working, teaching and learning that are distinctive to the engineering professions. A key finding of young people's action research was that they were already skilled in many of the social and communicative practices that have been shown to be characteristic of innovative and inclusive engineering programs, through their earlier participation in the science center’s broader youth development program. However, their fellowship experience allowed them to discover the importance of those social and communicative skills to innovative and effective engineering practice. This deepened their understanding of the problem-solving processes of engineering and how engineering can contribute to addressing broad social challenges, and shifted them away from earlier conceptions of engineering as a primarily technical field of study.

Engineering education research is urgently in need of a deeper understanding of how youth from non-white, immigrant backgrounds, particularly females, experience programmatic efforts to invite and engage them in the practices of learning and teaching others about engineering. The difficulties encountered by non-dominant youth in this field are broadly acknowledged, but program designers and educators continue to struggle to understand how to address these challenges in ways that are meaningful to their target audience. Findings from this project will provide detailed insight into how these youth are negotiating the process of building strong connections between their own cultural identities and their potential induction into a new identity as a student of engineering.

Mohabir, P., & Multani, S. S., & Culp, K. M. (2018, June), Board 109: What Activities and Practices Sustain the Engagement of Highly Diverse Communities of Young Engineering Students in an Out-of-School Fellowship Program? Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29873

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