Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Pre-College Engineering Education
This paper aims to evaluate the impact of a STEM-focused research methods course and summer research experience on the self-efficacy and interest in STEM research and careers of underrepresented minority (URM) high school students (grades 9-11) in a pre-college program (PCP). The minority engineering program (MEP) at a Large Public University partnered with the PCP to address underrepresentation of URMs in STEM fields. Both project components were designed to provide exposure to research methods, engineering design principles and STEM careers and professionals. Undergraduate students in the MEP served as mentors to the PCP students throughout the research methods course and summer research experiences.
The research methods course is being taught in three parts over the duration of the three year project: introductory-9th grade, intermediate-10th grade and advanced-11th grade. Each part of the course was taught for 10 Saturdays over a five month period. The results presented in this paper are for the first two project years, which included a cohort of 37 PCP students. In the first year introductory course students conducted research on prosthetics, designed a prosthetic limb, and created a prototype limb based on their design. During the second year intermediate course, participants explored four of the grand challenges for engineering and conducted hands-on research methods connections activities related to each challenge. Additionally, students participated in a 2-week summer research experience in each of the project years. In year 1, students completed a summer research project focused on transportation engineering where they programmed Lego Mindstorms NXT-G to simulate car movement through various traffic situations. The summer project in year 2 allowed students to explore drone technology and the impact of certain variables on drone performance.
The evaluation of this program was informed by a variety of sources, including program artifacts, observations, focus groups/interviews, surveys and a pre/post-student science content knowledge assessment. Evaluation results indicate that the program had a positive impact on the majority of students’ interest in careers in a STEM-related field. According to survey results, about 63% of students said participation in the program enhanced their desire to pursue a job in a science-related career. When asked what fields they might want to pursue, many students mentioned various forms of engineering and medicine or medical research. Survey results showed that the biggest jump in interest was seen in engineering. It held in the high seventies in year one and increased to 91% overall in year two.
Overall, this program has enhanced students’ confidence in their ability to conduct STEM research and pursue STEM degrees. Results of the post-content assessment showed that all students were able to provide an acceptable definition of research and 97% of respondents were able to list at least three current areas of STEM research compared to just 67% who were able to do so in the pre-assessment. Ninety-seven percent of students described themselves as “good” or “very good” science students. Students reported that the course helped them understand science and math better (73%), which was echoed during a focus group session in which students verbally expressed their belief that they were learning new content but in an applied fashion. In addition, PCP students commented during focus groups about the value of having the interactions with MEP mentors. The third part of the course will begin in Fall 2017.
Baldwin, T. B., & Daniel, A., & Williams, B., & Townsend, L. W. (2018, June), Board 116: Impact of a STEM-focused Research Program on Minority High School Students’ Self-Efficacy and Interest in STEM Research and Careers (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/29887
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