Asee peer logo

Board 241: Connected Learning Spaces Supporting Engineering Interest Development: A Case Study of Ego-Centric Network Analysis of Relationships

Download Paper |


2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Raul Mishael Sedas University of California, Irvine Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Educational researcher and evaluator of out-of-school environments focused on engineering. Learning scientist and designer interested in design-based activities that foster and enhance STEAM+Design learning for the empowerment of non-dominant populations.

visit author page

author page

Mizuko Ito

Download Paper |


Not surprisingly, youth from underrepresented and marginalized groups are less likely to have access to a broad ecosystem of support for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), particularly in emerging specialties like coding or innovative engineering and project-based activities. Research on out-of-school (informal) education recognizes that these learning “ecosystems” can support participation in STEM and their ongoing programs across settings (e.g., home, libraries, youth clubs, museums) can be critical to sparking and sustaining engagement in STEM. In addition to lacking these types of engaging STEM offerings in-school, studies have documented a growing disparity in investments that poor and wealthy families make on enrichment activities. It is in these enrichment activities in out-of-school settings where young people are most likely to find support for specialized interests and connect with peers and mentors who they identify with. Thus, lack of social capital, networks of relationships that provide access to resources and opportunities, limits access to STEM for youth from underrepresented groups and limits the potential for out-of-school organizations to address this growing gap between poor and wealthy families. However, there is growing evidence that increasing social capital can promote access for marginalized youth and can support STEM interest development. The Connected Learning (CL) framework developed over a decade by Ito and colleagues (2013, 2020) recognizes the importance of relationships for effective learning. This connected learning can be achieved at the intersection of interest-driven activities, supportive relationships, and academic, career, or civic opportunities. Various connected learning programs in out-of-school environments have shown these common features: sponsorship of interest-driven projects, affinity-based mentorship, and brokering connections to other settings and resources. The aim of this qualitative case study is to investigate how connected learning out-of-school programs can build social capital for youth from underrepresented groups by analyzing the relationship between social capital, their program features, and interest and engagement in STEM. For this case study, we focus on youth who expressed interest in engineering. Our research questions are: What forms of social capital of underserved youth existed when participating in a connected learning STEM program? What social network changes appear during a period of over a year? This investigation employs tools of ego-centric network analysis to analyze the influences that out-of-school programs can have in building social capital for youth who lack these relational supports in their home and community. While not fully longitudinal, we followed participants over the course of a year, and interviewed them three times to capture changes during these different points in a STEM pathway. Preliminary findings show that besides the immediate family, the mentors in the out-of-school programs provided family-like support to the youth. Throughout their involvement in the STEM program, youth mentioned specific types of support with their individual interest-driven projects. In addition to ego-centric network visualizations of their social capital, we conducted a thematic analysis to summarize the types of support participants mentioned these out-of-school environments provided while centering their interests, affinities, and identities.

Sedas, R. M., & Ito, M. (2023, June), Board 241: Connected Learning Spaces Supporting Engineering Interest Development: A Case Study of Ego-Centric Network Analysis of Relationships Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42684

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: © 2023 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