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Content, Connection and Careers: Kit-Based Learning and Virtual University Connections (Evaluation)

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

PCEE Session 11: Engineering Outreach / Summer Programs

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Paper Authors


Joanna Skluzacek University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Dr. Joanna M. Skluzacek, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Joanna Skluzacek is a Professor in the Division of Extension at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. The focus of her research is the impact of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education interventions on youth learning, career interests and higher education aspirations. Skluzacek received her Ph.D. in Environmental Chemistry and Technology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2005. She has worked at the University of Wisconsin since 2010.

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Eric Severson University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Eric L Severson (S'09-M'15) received the B.Sc. and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA in 2008 and 2015, respectively where he also worked as a post doctoral associate through 2016. He is currently an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Severson is an associate director of the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium (WEMPEC) and fellow of the Grainger Institute for Engineering. His research interests include design and control of electric machines and power electronics, with focus areas in magnetic bearings, bearingless motors, flywheel energy storage, and off-highway vehicle electrification.

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Nathan Petersen University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Nathan Petersen received the B.S. degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA, in 2019. He is currently working toward the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin. He is a Research Assistant with the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium (WEMPEC). His research interests include control techniques for electric machines, specifically targeting magnetically levitated motor systems.

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Martin Johnson University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Science kits have been a staple of learning for some time, but in the era of COVID-19 at-home science kits took specific prominence in educational initiatives. In this paper, we delineate how kit-based education can be paired with virtual connection technology to enhance postsecondary and career exploration. The “Content, Connection and Careers” kit-based program has been developed to enable youth to explore electrical engineering principles while connecting virtually with university students to discuss engineering courses and careers. When assembled and wired up, the kit components become linear motors that use a magnetic force to pull a bolt into a pipe when youth press a button. This follows the same working principles as a doorbell or solenoid. These kits are supported by virtual learning sessions where youth connect with university students and faculty to fully understand the educational content, connect to peers and caring adults to share their learning, and explore careers that use electrical engineering skills. To investigate the effectiveness of the program, surveys were distributed to participants to understand whether the kits were simple enough for independent learning but robust enough to encourage additional self-exploration of more difficult topics with the aid of expert scientists and other adult role models. Additionally, youth were asked if the connections made with university faculty and students was beneficial in their thinking of postsecondary options and college engagement. Over 60 elementary and middle-school aged youth participated in the project. Over 80 percent of survey respondents self-reported improved knowledge of how an electromagnetic field works and how to build a simple electromagnet. Other results showed an increased understanding of engineering careers and courses required to study electric engineering in college. Before their experience in the project, very few of the young people had ever talked to university faculty or university students about their areas of research or their journey into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This connection was described in the surveys as what the youth liked best about the project.

Skluzacek, J., & Severson, E., & Petersen, N., & Johnson, M. (2022, August), Content, Connection and Careers: Kit-Based Learning and Virtual University Connections (Evaluation) Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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