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Factors Cited By Secondary Students As Influencing Their Interests In Nanoscale Science And Engineering

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Innovative K-12 Engineering Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.604.1 - 13.604.21



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Paper Authors

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Kelly Hutchinson Purdue University

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Lynn Bryan Purdue University

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George Bodner Purdue University

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Nicholas Giordano Purdue University

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

Factors Cited by Secondary Students’ as Influencing their Interests in Nanoscale Science and Engineering Abstract

Previous research indicates that interest correlates to student achievement1 and increased learning.2 Therefore, if students are more interested in science and engineering concepts, their science achievement may increase. Additionally, hands-on activities3 and scientific inquiry4 are explicitly cited as motivational to students. Relevance, context, and applications to real-life have also been shown as factors influencing student interests.5-8 Although there is a great deal of research that indicates that relevant and meaningful topics increase interest, little research has shown specifically what these topics could be. The focus of this study was to determine the level of interest secondary students expressed in relation to a set of defined nanoscale science and engineering (NSE) concepts and what factors influenced secondary students’ interests in those concepts. A Likert-scale survey was administered to 416 rural, suburban, and urban secondary students to measure their level of interest in four NSE phenomena and 11 driving questions. Forty students were interviewed to investigate why students were (or were not) interested in the survey items. Findings indicated that students were more interested in NSE topics when the activities and concepts indicated relevance to life, were novel, and could be experienced. Both middle- and high-school students indicated interest in the same topics. Gender was found to have little effect on students’ interests, although, males were more interested in mechanics topics, whereas females were more interested in health topics.


Statistics from the National Science Board [NSB] (2006) indicate that the number of freshman expressing an interest in majoring in the physical sciences had decreased over the last two decades.9 On the other hand, the NSB projects indicate that there will be a 26% rise in science and engineering occupations from 2002-2012.9 Interest and achievement in K-12 science is vitally important to the engineering field as the students that most often pursue engineering as a career are those students with strong abilities and interest in science and mathematics. Nanoscale science and engineering (NSE), with its cutting edge research and innovation has the potential to pique the interest of students whose interest and desire to study science and/ or engineering might otherwise wane.

The purpose of this study is to examine secondary (grades 7-12) students’ interests in nanoscale science and engineering. Because of its inherent interdisciplinary nature, nanoscale science and engineering is one way of simultaneously increasing students’ interest in science and engineering as well as infusing more engineering into grade 7-12 classrooms.

Importance of Nanotechnology in STEM Education

The development of nanotechnology comes about through the blending of all science and engineering disciplines on the nanometer scale. Because of this convergence, it is believed that the impact of NSE will be broader than any other technological revolutions. Already, research in the development of nanotechnologies has exploded in nanoelectronics, medicine, healthcare,

Hutchinson, K., & Bryan, L., & Bodner, G., & Giordano, N. (2008, June), Factors Cited By Secondary Students As Influencing Their Interests In Nanoscale Science And Engineering Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4198

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