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Building Youths' Socio-Technical Engineering Knowledge through Engagement in a Community Solar Energy Project (Evaluation)

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Energy & Technology in Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Michelle Jordan Arizona State University

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Michelle Jordan is as associate professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. She also serves as the Education Director for the QESST Engineering Research Center. Michelle’s program of research focuses on social interactions in collaborative learning contexts. She is particularly interested in how students navigate communication challenges as they negotiate complex engineering design projects. Her scholarship is grounded in notions of learning as a social process, influenced by complexity theories, sociocultural theories, sociolinguistics, and the learning sciences.

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Wendy Wakefield Arizona State University

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Wendy is a second year graduate student in the Learning, Literacies, and Technologies doctoral program at Arizona State University. Her research interest is teacher education. Specifically, she is interested in innovative profession development models to help elementary school teachers implement effective engineering instruction into their classrooms.

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Mia Delarosa Arizona State University

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Mia DeLaRosa received her BA in in Elementary Education from Arizona State University in 2004. She went on to receive her Masters in Educational Leadership and Principal Certificate from Northern Arizona University in 2007. She is currently working on her EdD at Arizona State University. Mia is highly qualified to teach middle grades math, science, and language arts. Mia has taught middle school science in the Alhambra Elementary School District for nine years where she also leads after-school engineering clubs. Mia has been directly involved with district-wide initiatives including technology integration, Just In Time Assessments, curriculum pacing guides, and implementation of a research based, hands-on science and engineering curriculum. Mia has also worked closely with FOSS as a professional development facilitator. She also worked with Project WET at the University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension as a curriculum developer and professional development faciltator.

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Clark Miller Arizona State University

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Clark A. Miller is Professor and Director of the Center for Energy & Society at Arizona State University. He holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University.

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Carlo Altamirano-Allende

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This report details the design, implementation, and evaluation of a summer engineering research experience for high school students aimed at increasing competence, interest, and belonging – all of which have been found to remove barriers to participation, preparedness, and identity development for students from populations underrepresented in engineering.

The five-week, full-time program focused on engaging minority youth in understanding and addressing socio-technical issues associated with energy engineering projects, an understudied area in K-12 engineering education. Participants included a cadre of five tenth-grade students (three male, two female; four Hispanic, five first-generation) all drawn from one Title 1 public school district in the southwestern US. The program took place on a university campus where the Youth Scholars (YS) were co-mentored by an expert eighth-grade science teacher with background knowledge in photovoltaics and solar energy engineering research, and by an engineer with expertise in sustainability and community solar energy projects. The YS, all of whom had previous technical knowledge of photovoltaics and solar energy from a previous short program, were introduced to socio-technical considerations through reflection on a multilayer design framework for social value creation through energy engineering. They also met with stakeholders associated with each aspect of the model, including members of their own community, city planners, energy service providers, and solar industry leaders. The YS used the framework and their meetings with stakeholders to inform their collaborative design and presentation of a community solar energy engineering project for their own low-income community.

Evaluation measures included pre-post surveys, interviews, written artifacts, and observations. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of data provide evidence that the program successfully supported all participants’ engineering identity development, socio-technical engineering knowledge, increasing agency and ownership of their community energy project, and engineering communication practices, though to varying degrees. It also suggested potential programmatic changes and improvements to the existing social value model for guiding community energy projects. For instance, the Youth Scholars had difficulties differentiating between some layers of the social value model. Further, their community energy project might have avoided some pitfalls by considering policy and governance issues earlier in the design process.

Jordan, M., & Wakefield, W., & Delarosa, M., & Miller, C., & Altamirano-Allende, C. (2019, June), Building Youths' Socio-Technical Engineering Knowledge through Engagement in a Community Solar Energy Project (Evaluation) Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32490

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: © 2019 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