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Nepantleros and Nepantleras: How Latinx Adolescents Participate in Social Change in Engineering

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Experiences of Diverse Students

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Joel Alejandro Mejia Angelo State University Orcid 16x16

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Joel Alejandro Mejia is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at the University of San Diego. He is interested in research regarding underrepresentation of minority groups in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), especially the use of culturally responsive practices in engineering education. He is particularly interested in the use of comprehension strategy instruction in linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms; physical and digital manipulatives and their application in engineering courses; engineering identity; engineering literacies and critical literacies; cultures of engineering; retention, recruitment, and outreach for underrepresented minorities in STEM.

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Amy Wilson-Lopez Utah State University, Department of Teacher Education and Leadership

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Amy Wilson-Lopez is an associate professor at Utah State University who studies culturally responsive engineering and literacy-infused engineering with linguistically diverse students.

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Andrea L. Robledo Angelo State University


Renata A. Revelo University of Illinois, Chicago

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Renata A. Revelo is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned her B.S. and M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering and her Ph.D. in Education Organization and Leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Dismantling prevailing notions of educational access and opportunity is critical for engineering education policy, practice, and research. Often, the narratives of underrepresented students are omitted from the engineering curriculum. At the micro level, schooling practices fail to recognize the epistemologies of students of color. Delgado-Bernal (2002) argued that “although students of color are holders and creators of knowledge, they often feel as if their stories, experiences, cultures, and languages are devalued, misinterpreted, or omitted within formal educational settings” (p. 106). In order to understand the complexities of sociocultural factors present in the enactment of engineering practices among Latinx adolescents, we must validate their material realities and recognize how youth “negotiate and struggle with structures and create meanings of their own from these interactions” (Solorzano & Delgado-Bernal, 2001, p. 315). Understanding how adolescents are positioned within the resistance framework presented by Solorzano and Delgado-Bernal can help us describe how their oppositional behavior leads to human agency and recognize them as holders and creators of knowledge and understand their embodied knowledges. Resistant capital refers to those knowledges and skills fostered through oppositional behavior that challenges inequality. Through this framework, Latinx adolescents can be recognized as nepantleros and nepantleras – youth that, as a result of their everyday experiences, possess the ability to see beneath the surface and have the desire to move toward a socially just world. In this study, we examined how Latinx adolescents employed their resistant capital to provide solutions to problems in their communities through engineering design. This study was guided by three research questions: (1) What are the forms of resistant capital identified among Latinx students participating in community-based engineering challenges? (2) In what ways do the Latinx adolescents used their resistant capital to provide solutions to the community-based engineering challenges? and (3) How are the characteristics of nepantleros and nepantleras evident in the adolescents’ stories? The objective of this study was to better understand the realities of the adolescents and observe how they responded to community needs and their desire to effect social change. We conducted a multiple case study with 25 Latinx adolescents working on community-based engineering challenges. All participants had received English as a Second Language services at their school. Individual interviews and bi-monthly group meetings were conducted to collect data relevant to the study. The data was independently analyzed using constant comparative analysis while mutually agreeing on each code. Emerging themes were identified for further evaluation using reconstructive analysis. Analysis of the data indicated that the adolescents challenged the inequality of resources available to them and their community. We argue that the knowledge emerging from their oppositional behavior can be incorporated into their learning as a way to foster their personal agency and engage them in engineering education activities.

Mejia, J. A., & Wilson-Lopez, A., & Robledo, A. L., & Revelo, R. A. (2017, June), Nepantleros and Nepantleras: How Latinx Adolescents Participate in Social Change in Engineering Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28701

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