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Engineering Students Teaching Hands-on Engineering Design Challenges to Underserved Community Families

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Evaluation: Diversity in K-12 and Pre-college Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.7.1 - 26.7.16



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Paper Authors


Amy Hee Kim Iridescent

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Amy Kim is the Sr. Director of Content Development at Iridescent, a science and engineering education nonprofit. She is trained in physical chemistry (Ph.D. University of Chicago) with a strong passion for improving STEM education in informal settings. In graduate school, she chose to pursue a career path where scientists can give back to their communities. She was a science policy fellow at the National Academy of Sciences where she learned how to effectively communicate science. She believes that the critical thinking skills acquired through STEM education are essential, and wants to inspire the next generation to always query the unknown. Amy is passionate about connecting scientists and engineers with students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to connect one-on-one with STEM professionals.

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Tara Chklovski Iridescent

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Ms. Chklovski is the Founder and CEO of Iridescent, a science, engineering and technology education nonprofit. Before starting Iridescent, she worked as the principal at a 300 student K-6 school in India. She has founded and grown Iridescent from a one-woman effort to an organization reaching 30,000 underserved students globally. With the help of a passionate team of 21 people, she has consistently and cost-effectively doubled Iridescent’s impact every year by relying on technology, synergistic partnerships, rigorous evaluation and volunteers. One of Iridescent's programs, is now the world's largest program teaching girls to become technology entrepreneurs, with a presence in 45 countries. She has a B.Sc in Physics and a M.S in Aerospace from Boston University.

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Be a Scientist Engineering Education Program!Our programs provide a venue for scientists and engineers to use their technical knowledge andskills when working with children, while simultaneously providing role models for students,especially in underserved communities. Our goal is to build a strong community betweenscientists and engineers and children. This project has been funded through an NSF AISL grantwith the title “Be a Scientist”(BAS). BAS is designed to connect underserved families directlyto scientists and engineers with the aim of inspiring families to see themselves as innovators andinventors, while also encouraging the development of key 21st century skills of curiosity,creativity, and persistence. BAS adopts a “train-the-trainer” model, where engineering studentsare trained to develop and teach hands-on projects to local students and their families over thecourse of a 5-week family science program held at a local school. This model consists of 5 steps:! • Engineering students are trained to develop (hands on) open-ended engineering design challenges that are inspired by and illustrate a key concept from their own work/research. • Engineering students test out their designs with local families during family science course • The best designs are published on an online engineering curriculum platform (which is funded by the NSF-TSL grant) • We then train local teachers, after-school educators and parents to use this curriculum to engage more families • Trained engineering students continue to mentor families online!Over the past seven years--four spent running BAS--we have trained 1400 engineers andscientists to engage 21,000 children and parents nationwide.!BAS is externally evaluated each year by the EDC Center for Children and Technology. Annualevaluations have found that children develop positive attitudes towards STEM activities(including hands-on building), become more persistent in solving design challenges, and believethat they can go on to be good scientists and/or engineers. Parents have also developed positiveattitudes towards STEM programs as well as positive perceptions of STEM jobs and careers, andtheir STEM-related child-rearing practices improved (including at-home exploration andexperimentation, the quality of questions asked at home, building together). Evaluations alsoindicate that Engineering students benefit by learning how to create lesson plans as well asengineering design challenges, sharpen their own understanding of engineering concepts in theprocess of breaking them down to explain to a non-professional or academic audience, and thatthey enjoy contributing to the local community and working in-person with students.Engineering students often express a sense of re-igniting the passion that led them to pursue aSTEM degree in the first place and benefit from working directly with students in theircommunity.

Kim, A. H., & Chklovski, T. (2015, June), Engineering Students Teaching Hands-on Engineering Design Challenges to Underserved Community Families Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23340

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