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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. https://peer.asee.org/40630
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