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Bringing Aerospace to K-12 Students Using Nontraditional Applications

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

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July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Design Courses 1, Teaching Tools

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Fernando Sesma Texas A&M University

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Strong and motivated junior student currently working towards a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Mathematics from Texas A&M University. My particular aerospace interests include thermodynamics and air-breathing engines, vertical flight, space traffic management, experimental hypersonic aircraft and flight simulation.

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Eghosasere Alao Texas A&M University


Hannah Stroud Texas A&M University

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Hannah Stroud is a first year PhD student at Texas A&M University. Her research interests include unconventional applications of aerospace technology. Her current work investigates multiphysical modeling of bio-absorbable medical devices. She is co-advised by Dr. Kristi Shryock and Dr. Darren Hartl.

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Kristi J. Shryock Texas A&M University

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Dr. Kristi J. Shryock is the Frank and Jean Raymond Foundation Inc. Endowed Instructional Associate Professor and Associate Department Head in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. She also serves as Director of the Craig and Galen Brown Engineering Honors Program. She received her BS, MS, and PhD from the College of Engineering at Texas A&M. Kristi works to improve the undergraduate engineering experience through evaluating preparation in areas, such as mathematics and physics, evaluating engineering identity and its impact on retention, incorporating non-traditional teaching methods into the classroom, and engaging her students with interactive methods.

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Student Paper

There is a rising need to increase gender and ethnic diversity within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related fields, and in aerospace in particular. Nationwide data shows that approximately 85% of aerospace engineers are male and approximately 15% in minority groups. Thus, the industry stands to benefit from boosting diversity, as this provides new perspectives, leading to an increase in innovation and productivity. The intent of this project is to show that early STEM exposure, along with the implementation of unconventional aerospace concepts, might naturally increase diversity in the field. Furthermore, there are many factors contributing to whether or not a student may choose to pursue a STEM related career. Research suggests that early math achievement, math self-efficacy beliefs, and early exposure to STEM related subjects are all indicative of whether students enroll in STEM majors. While math achievement is a significant indicator of a student’s interest in engineering related fields, early exposure to STEM is one of the most considerable factors in whether students continue to seriously pursue related fields in their later academic career.

The developed activity, Space Traffic Jam!, teaches elementary level students about aerospace engineering through a basic analog. By playing the activity, students will be able to absorb concepts in a virtual format, one that is more easily digestible than being given the information plainly. After implementation of the game to a wide variety of elementary school students, the team will begin to judge the effect that the game has on their notions of STEM and particularly aerospace engineering. The team believes that the unconventional aspects of the game will encourage students to be more interested in these fields of study. The primary goal is to make sure younger students understand that aerospace engineering has a broad and varied set of applications. Moreover, the game’s simple mechanics, art style, and explanation of novel concepts in aerospace appeal highly to younger audiences.

A variety of methods may be employed to rate the game’s effectiveness on younger audiences. Firstly, one must look at the material enjoyment they experienced from the game. This can simply be done through surveying, but a look at the game’s meta components give valuable insight. For example, the game’s replayability and time spent in-game can give an idea of its effectiveness. However, surveying is the most direct answer to our questions of efficacy. Questions would be open-ended, such as “what does an aerospace engineer do?” and numerically rated from 1-5 like “how much fun did you have playing the game?”. The team seeks to collect data over a diverse range of elementary school students, including factors of age, race, and other preliminary interests.

A recent hypothesis from the authors states that a limited perception of aerospace might negatively impact interest in the industry, and oftentimes prospective students attribute their disinterest in aerospace engineering to a narrow focus of the field or limited job opportunities. STEM fields in general traditionally lack diversity, and fields perceived to be specialized within STEM, such as aerospace engineering suffer even more from the lack of diversity and inclusion. Thus, one of our main goals for Space Traffic Jam! is for students to draw correlations to fields they previously viewed as unrelated to aerospace. By relating space and car traffic, the student can more easily perceive the unconventional topic of Space Traffic Management through the lens of a familiar application, regardless of the player’s age, gender, ethnicity, or prior experience. By expanding the students’ perception of aerospace engineering to that of having more applications than simply planes, rockets, and helicopters, we hope to increase the interest in aerospace engineering. Additionally, if students enjoy the game, even if they personally do not aspire to pursue a career in the STEM field, they may share the game with students who end up discovering a newfound talent or passion for engineering.

Sesma, F., & Alao, E., & Stroud, H., & Shryock, K. J. (2021, July), Bringing Aerospace to K-12 Students Using Nontraditional Applications Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36754

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