June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
October 19, 2019
Pre-College Engineering Education
This paper evaluates the impact of a STEM-focused research methods course and summer research experience on the self-efficacy and interest in STEM research and careers of underrepresented minority (URM) high school students (grades 9-11) in a pre-college program (PCP). The minority engineering program (MEP) at a Large Public University (LPU) partnered with the PCP to address underrepresentation of URMs in STEM fields. Both project components were designed to provide exposure to research methods, engineering design principles and STEM careers and professionals. Undergraduate students in the MEP served as mentors to the PCP students throughout the program.
The STEM research program began with a cohort of 37 PCP students and ended with approximately 30 students participating in the final year. Students began the research program as ninth graders and continued through to their junior year. The research methods course was taught in three parts over the duration of the three year project period: introductory-9th grade, intermediate-10th grade and advanced-11th grade. In the first year introductory course students conducted research on prosthetics, designed a prosthetic limb, and created a prototype. During the second year intermediate course, participants explored four of the grand challenges for engineering and conducted hands-on research activities related to each challenge. In the third year advanced course students gained more practice in formulating research questions, developing experimental designs, and data collection and analysis.
Students participated in a summer research experience in each of the project years. In year 1, participants completed a project related to transportation engineering where they programmed Lego Mindstorms NXT-G to simulate car movement through various traffic situations. The summer project in year 2 allowed students to explore drone technology and the impact of certain variables on drone performance. In the final summer experience participants worked on small research projects in the lab of a STEM faculty member at the LPU.
The evaluation of this program was informed by a variety of sources, including program artifacts, observations, focus groups/interviews, surveys and a pre/post-student science content knowledge assessment. Evaluation results indicate that the program had a positive impact on the majority of students’ interest in careers in a STEM-related field. About 50% of students said participation in the program enhanced their desire to pursue a job in a science-related career. Girls expressed greater interest in medicine (75%) and medical research (75%) than boys did (40% and 33%, respectively). However, boys showed a greater interest than girls in engineering (87% vs 63%). Overall, the program enhanced students’ confidence in their ability to conduct STEM research and pursue STEM careers. According to survey results, 91% of students responded that they feel better about being able to learn science because of the program and this was echoed during a focus group session in which students verbally expressed their belief that they were learning new content but in an applied fashion. In addition, PCP students commented during focus groups about the value of having the interactions with MEP mentors.
Baldwin, T. B., & Townsend, L. W., & Williams, B., & Daniel, A., & Adams, J. M. (2019, June), Evaluation of the Impact of a STEM-focused Research Program on Minority High School Students’ Self-Efficacy and Interest in STEM Research and Careers Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32768
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