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Evaluation of the Impact of a STEM-focused Research Program on Minority High School Students’ Self-Efficacy and Interest in STEM Research and Careers

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Informal Engineering Education with Secondary Students

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Tameshia Ballard Baldwin North Carolina State University

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Dr. Tameshia Ballard Baldwin is a Teaching Assistant Professor working jointly in the College of Engineering and in the Department of STEM Education within the College of Education at North Carolina State University. She earned a B.S. in Biological Engineering from North Carolina State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Biological Systems Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Baldwin's primary focus is working across the Colleges of Engineering and Education on engineering education related initiatives. She teaches undergraduate courses in the First Year Engineering Program and in the Department of STEM Education. Dr. Baldwin's research interests include self-efficacy, motivation and persistence of underrepresented populations in STEM and engineering design in K-12.

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Latricia Walker Townsend North Carolina State University

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Dr. LaTricia Townsend is the Interim Director of Evaluation Programs for the Research and Evaluation Team at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University. She has over 23 years of experience in the field of education. Her current work focuses on improving educational outcomes for students enrolled in K-12 schools and community colleges. She also serves as an associate teaching professor in the College of Education at North Carolina State University where she has taught Qualitative Research Methods Courses past three years.

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Braska Williams Jr. North Carolina State University

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13 years experience in K-12 working for Newport News (VA) Public Schools and 11 years experience at North Carolina State University; managed over $10 million in grants over my career including several NSF grants; extensive work in K-12 with underrepresented minority students and the STEM pipeline;

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Angelitha Daniel North Carolina State University


Javon Marcell Adams North Carolina State University

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Dr. Javon M. Adams is the Coordinator of Transfer Programs in the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University (NCSU) focused on researching diversity Issues in Engineering. Dr. Adams graduated with his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from NCSU in December 2014 after completing his dissertation which focused on Transportation Engineering Materials. During his time as an undergraduate and as a graduate student at NCSU, Dr. Adams actively participating in a wide range of efforts aimed at increasing the recruitment, retention, and advancement of minority student groups studying engineering on campus. These personal experiences fueled his desire to pursue research opportunities in the field of Diversity in Higher Education, specifically in STEM disciplines. During his time as a postdoctoral research, Dr. Adams has established the Minority Summer Research Program at NCSU and is conducting research related to various diversity issues on campus.

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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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