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Evaluation of virtual young scholar program with a focus on hands-on engineering design projects in a virtual setting (Evaluation)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Elena Nicolescu Veety North Carolina State University at Raleigh

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Elena Veety received the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, in 2011. Her research focused on liquid crystal polarization gratings for tunable optical filters and telecommunications applications. Since 2011, she has been a Teaching Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University.
Currently, she is the Education Director for the NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST).

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James Edward Lamberth III Enloe High School

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James Lamberth received a BA in science education and a BS in chemistry from North Carolina State University in 2005. He currently teaches science at Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is an ASSIST RET (Research Experience for Teachers) fellow, and a Kenan Fellow Class of 2014. He works as an education outreach liaison to the NCSU ASSIST Center.

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Evelyn L. Baldwin Wake STEM Early College High School

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Evelyn Baldwin has a Master of Education degree and a Bachelor of Science In Science Education degree from North Carolina State University. She has been a public school science teacher for twenty-five years in the Wake County Public School System in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is a 2015 Kenan Fellow and a National Board for Professional Teaching certified teacher in Adolescent and Young Adulthood science. She is an Education Outreach Liason with the ASSIST center at NCSU where she works with classroom teachers and students in the summer Research Experience for Teachers Program and the Young Scholars Program. Additionally, Mrs. Baldwin sponsors a Junior Women in Science and Engineering club at Wake STEM Early College High School.

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Summer research experiences for High School students, or Young Scholar (YS) programs, are a common component of pre-college outreach programs of NSF-funded engineering research centers at universities across the country. While the structure of the programs and the nature of the research experience varies widely among programs, the broad goal is to provide high school students with authentic, hands-on, research experiences in university environments.

This paper will describe the evolution and transition of an established YS program into a fully virtual experience. It will highlight the challenges, successes, and lessons learned while implementing this program over two sessions (summer and fall semester). It will also focus on the challenges of maintaining an engaging, hands-on experience that gives students an authentic look at the research and engineering design work of the university, without physically being on campus.

Over the past 7 years, and prior to summer 2020, our Center provided summer research experiences for 71 High School Students and 111 Middle and High School teachers. During a five week program student-teacher pairs completed research projects within one of our faculty’s research labs. In addition, teacher and student teams completed the “Wearable Device Challenge”, an engineering design project that challenges teams to design and build a wearable device to address an issue at the intersection of human, animal, and environmental health.

During summer 2020, due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, all in-person camps and activities were cancelled, and even the research laboratories shut down in-person activities for a period of time. The situation provided an opportunity to explore virtual programming as a method of bringing the Young Scholar experience to students off-campus. While it is difficult to completely replace the experience of being in a laboratory, the virtual experience has the added benefit of broadening our program’s reach and impact to a larger and more diverse student community.

Detailed aspects of program implementation will be discussed in the paper, including lessons learned, and improvements made between our first session in Summer 2020, and our first ever academic term session in Fall 2020. In overview, the program was compressed from a five week in-person summer experience into a two-week virtual program during summer, and ad six-week (Saturday Only) program during the fall. The program was implemented through the Moodle learning management system with both synchronous and asynchronous activities.

The virtual lessons and activities were developed by our team of Center faculty/staff and High School Teachers. Seven individual modules were developed, each addressing the same objectives of our established in-person program. These objectives were derived from the Next Generation Science Standards and focus on the high school engineering design strand.

The virtual modules include both technical and professional development topics such as: (i) an introduction to the Center and its research, (ii) the engineering design process, (iii) systems thinking, (iv) criteria, constraints, and the voice of the customer in engineering design, (v) technical tutorials (including circuits, sensors, programming, rapid prototyping, and safety), (vi) the One Health initiative as a framework to explore global challenges, and (vii) appropriate documentation and oral/written communication.

These modules are held together by the common strand of the Wearable Device Challenge, and by the end of the program, each student designs, builds, and presents a working wearable device prototype that addresses a One Health related issue. In order to complete the challenge, each student is also provided with their own take-home kit of electronics, sensors, and other materials.

To date, a total of 26 students have participated in this virtual program (including both the summer and academic term sessions). As part of the program evaluation, student outcomes, satisfaction surveys, and artifacts of student work, will be used to help illuminate the discussion of challenges, lessons learned, and future directions of this program.

Veety, E. N., & Lamberth, J. E., & Baldwin, E. L. (2021, July), Evaluation of virtual young scholar program with a focus on hands-on engineering design projects in a virtual setting (Evaluation) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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