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Engineers As Teachers: Helping Engineers Bring Cutting Edge Science To Underserved Communities

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Mentoring & Outreach for Girls & Minorities

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.501.1 - 15.501.16



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Paper Authors

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Lindsey Jenkins-Stark Iridescent

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Tara Chklovski Iridescent

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

K-12 Pre-Engineering Education Engineers as Teachers: Helping Engineers Bring Cutting Edge Science to Underserved Communities Abstract There is growing concern among the scientific community that the United States is not preparing a diverse enough group of students, in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The percentage of bachelor’s degrees in STEM awarded to women in 2008 was only 18% while the representation of African-American and Hispanic students combined accounted for only 11% of bachelor’s degrees, far below their combined 28% share of the general population. Research shows a large part of this problem can be attributed to the access underrepresented students have to higher-level STEM curriculum, resources and social capital. In order to decrease the STEM achievement gap, a science education nonprofit, Iridescent, works with engineers to implement real-world, inquiry-based Family Science Courses in these underrepresented communities. Iridescent’s mission is to foster curiosity and inspire self- confidence in young people with limited access—unlocking doors to their future and preparing them to help solve the world’s most pressing issues. In order to accomplish this, Iridescent uses volunteer engineers to teach cutting edge science to students and their families. Through Iridescent’s partnership with the University of Southern California (USC), engineering undergraduates enroll in “Engineers as Teachers” and receive 3 units of technical elective credit for participating in the training program. During the 16-week training undergraduate engineers partner with graduate students, faculty and professional engineers and learn to break down complex ideas into simple lessons, identify learning objectives, design aligned experiments and assess learning through a pedagogical theory-based approach. Throughout the training, engineer volunteers develop a story that pervades the five lessons. Each of the lessons incorporates fundamental physics concepts contributing to the students’ understanding of the overarching story. Story topics are based on the engineers’ research fields and align with the California State Science Standards of Education for different grade levels. Examples of topics include: The Physics of Running, Structural Color, and Bird Flight Aerodynamics. Experiments for each lesson enable participants to design and build working models that not only help them develop a deeper understanding of the concepts but also experience two very important aspects of scientific research: failure and the rewards of persistence. Engineers also incorporate pedagogical theory into each lesson using graphic organizers to develop student’s higher-level thinking and questioning as students connect the content to the experiment in the “Think About It” section of the graphic organizer. Iridescent uses formal assessments to measure interest in STEM subjects, and the content taught in every course. Content-based assessments are based on pedagogical theory and are constantly being modified to test for higher learning. Informal assessment questions are also completed by students and parents to measure STEM interest and knowledge. When asked what they want to do when they grow up, a participating student replied, “Maybe I’ll become a scientist”. As a result of our impact thus far, we’ve reached approximately 4,000 students and parents and on average participants have demonstrated an 80% increase in STEM interest. The following paper will review: a description of the Family Science model and its relationship

Jenkins-Stark, L., & Chklovski, T. (2010, June), Engineers As Teachers: Helping Engineers Bring Cutting Edge Science To Underserved Communities Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16944

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