June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Community Engagement Division
26.974.1 - 26.974.8
Community Partners in STEM EducationProgram OverviewThe Community Partners in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)Education program is an engineering design program where faculty led student groups worktogether to solve real world challenges presented by a community partner. The CommunityPartners in STEM Education Program is a way to provide students with professional skills andvolunteer opportunities, provide faculty with an bridge to link their academic expertise with civicengagement, promote improved perception of the University as part of the community, and equipcommunity partners with support on STEM initiatives. The community surrounding theUniversity is urban, underserved and culturally diverse. Community partners within a shortdistance of the University include small community based organizations (CBOs) working toserve the immediate community as well as large established informal learning institutions thatserve the city and region. It is in this context that projects and partners were identified. Therichness of the community truly had an impact on the formation and design of activities andscope bringing to mind the phrase, Think globally, act locally.ParticipantsEach project involves three participant groups: students, faculty, and a community organization.By embedding this program in already established student programs (senior and freshmandesign) we were able to offer this project option to students from a wide range of engineeringdisciplines. In our pilot year (AY 13-14), 38 students (20 male, 18 female) in groups of 4 to 5participated in eight projects. Most of the faculty who volunteered to lead these projects alreadyparticipate in service learning and other community or volunteer programs. Communityorganizations within 3 miles of the University were initially chosen as participants. Theyincluded small CBOs and well established informal learning institutions (i.e. museums, zoos,environmental centers) all of which have recently expanded their strategic plan to include STEMinitiatives, and better integration with the local community.OutcomesQualitative and quantitative data are used to understand and measure the value of this programfrom a student, faculty, and community partner perspective. The initial goal following the modelincluded enhancing the student experience and catalyzing classroom knowledge. This ismeasured through a survey distributed to all students and data collected supported thisassertion. For civic-minded faculty, there was appreciation for support identifying organizations,projects, and resources to help them engage in projects of interest. With larger informal learninginstitutions there was the identification of research projects, living lab opportunities, and a desireto collaborate on displays demonstrating engineering and STEM concepts. Smaller CBOs had aclear need for technical help with an engineering challenge. Lastly, all of our partners expandedtheir understanding of what engineers do and the multiple facets of the engineering discipline.ConclusionThis innovative program supports the University’s strategic plan to improve the studentexperience, involve the community, and build the STEM pipeline. Community service and civicengagement are a major component of the University’s strategic plan. This project is just oneSTEM framework that universities and STEM organizations can use to enhance communityinteraction. The implantation of this model and its adaptation locally has shown that the impactcan be greater when community assets are linked and leveraged to work together.
Erickson-Ludwig, A., & Levin, S. (2015, June), Instituting a Community-Based STEM Program at Drexel University's College of Engineering: Understanding Factors That Determine the Success of University-Community Partnerships Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24311
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