July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session
Researchers theorize that identification with a career field is achieved when there is alignment between student values and their perceptions of the values a career field meets. Stereotypically, engineering is perceived to align with status values, such as high pay, but the reality is that engineering is a collaborative enterprise that solves important social challenges. To understand the impact of this approach, we evaluated a traditional Saturday STEM program for Southern, urban African American youth that did not include a significant altruism component. In parallel, we designed a program that used Grand Challenges of Engineering to highlight the impacts of engineering on society and our everyday lives (“altruistic framing”). Students from the same demographic as the traditional STEM program were recruited for this new Tomorrow’s Community Innovators [TCI] Program. We compared the impacts of the traditional STEM program to the TCI camp to explore how they impacted students’ attitudes towards engineering and perceptions of the field.
The TCI program includes university-run summer camps, events for parents and students coordinated with a regional STEM Education nonprofit, and a visit to an on-campus engineering open house. One camp was held on campus in 2019 while the camp in 2020 was moved to a virtual format. At both TCI camps, as well as the Saturday program, students completed pre- and post-camp interviews and surveys about their experiences and how they perceive or define engineering. The traditional STEM, Saturday program involved hands-on activities and museum visits over the course of 10 weeks.
The TCI camp activities included thought exercises, laboratory experiments, app development, and robotics. Both of our samples were in grade 8-10 and African American students. In 2019, all students came from one low-income urban community. In 2020, virtual participants came from rural areas in addition to the urban community. Twenty students participated in the 2019 camp and 13 participated in the 2020 camp. In 2019, we used labs and app development related to three Grand Challenges: provide access to clean water, make solar energy economical, and restore and improve urban infrastructure. In 2020, we shipped materials for activities around water filtration and testing the quality of water.
Across both camps, through interviews, we found that TCI camps led to meaningful changes in students’ appreciation of engineering and, in some cases, new interests in pursuing engineering as a career. Many students noted how broadly engineering affects our everyday lives and how it helps others. For students in the traditional STEM program, students also increased their interest in engineering, but their definitions of the field did not broaden appreciably. Some found new interests, but they did not have the same type of transformative experience as a result of STEM programming without a
Overall, framing engineering as an altruistic career path led to meaningful changes in students’ definitions of engineering and their connection of engineering to their career interests.
Lakin, J. M., & Marghitu, D., & Davis, E. W., & Davis, V. A. (2021, July), Framing Engineering as Community Activism for Values-Driven Engineering (RFE Design and Development - Year 2) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37205
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