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Do After-school Robotics Programs Expand the Pipeline into STEM Majors in College? (RTP)

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session


Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Cathy Burack Brandeis University

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Dr. Cathy Burack is an Associate Director and Senior Fellow for Higher Education at the Center for Youth and Communities in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.
For the past twenty-five years Cathy has focused on two interrelated areas: access to higher education, especially by students who are among the first in their families to attend; and the ways in which colleges and universities engage with their communities. Cathy works with colleges, universities, and community organizations to use evaluation to both “prove” and “improve” their programs. Her research and capacity-building efforts attend to both outcomes and systemic change. To that end Cathy has conducted evaluations of campus-based change initiatives including conducting a national evaluation of institutional support for civic engagement, developing indicators associated with student success, helping to set up the Corporation for National and Community Service Learn and Serve America LASSIE national data collection system, and conducting multi-site evaluations on campus-wide change initiatives. Cathy recently was co-Principal Investigator of the evaluation of the Campus Compact Connect to Complete (C2C) initiative, a pilot peer-support program for low income and first generation students at nine community colleges, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Cathy's recent work includes investigating pathways to post-secondary majors in STEM. She was an evaluation partner to Girls Who Code, and is currently the co-Principal evaluator of the longitudinal evaluation of the FIRST robotics program.

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Alan Melchior Brandeis University

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Alan Melchior is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. He brings over twenty-five years of experience evaluating a wide variety of initiatives in the fields of youth, workforce, and community development.

Mr. Melchior has served as the lead evaluation partner for the FIRST robotics programs since 2002 and has conducted more than a dozen studies of FIRST’s national after-school robotics programs. He is currently the co-Principal evaluator on the multi-year longitudinal impact study of FIRST programs.

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Matthew Hoover Brandeis University

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Matthew Hoover is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University.

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One result of the growing concerns over the numbers of young people moving into STEM-related careers has been the expansion of formal and informal STEM education programming for pre-college youth, from elementary school through high school. While the numbers of programs have grown rapidly, there is little research on their long-term impacts on participant education and career trajectories. This paper presents interim findings from a multi-year longitudinal study of three national after-school robotics programs operated by FIRST, a global nonprofit that engages students in designing, building and competing complex robots with the goal of inspiring long-term interest in STEM. The study is tracking over 1200 FIRST program participants and comparison students over a five-year period through middle and high school and into college. Data sources include baseline and annual follow-up surveys of program participants and comparison students, as well as baseline parent surveys, surveys of adult team leaders/educators, and focus groups and telephone interviews with study participants. Focusing on the subset of study participants who have enrolled in at least one year of college at this point in time (approximately 450 students in 2017), the paper examines program impacts on student attitudes towards STEM and STEM careers; participation in STEM-related college courses; intention to major in STEM-related fields; and involvement in STEM-related internships and other activities.

Burack, C., & Melchior, A., & Hoover, M. (2018, June), Do After-school Robotics Programs Expand the Pipeline into STEM Majors in College? (RTP) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30341

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