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Partnering With A Neighborhood Association To Bring Technology To At Risk Urban Students

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Diversity, Recruiting, and Retention in ET

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.982.1 - 11.982.10



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Paper Authors


Margaret Ratcliff Purdue University-Columbus/SE Indiana

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Margaret Ratcliff is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering Technology at Purdue University College of Technology in Columbus, Indiana and has been there since January 2005. Before joining Purdue University at Columbus, she spent 11 years in industry working mostly as a Product Design Engineer, Senior Project Engineer, and Structural Analyst. She earned a M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University and a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tulane University.

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Joseph Fuehne Purdue University-Columbus/SE Indiana

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Joseph P. Fuehne is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering Technology at Purdue University College of Technology in Columbus, Indiana. He earned Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University and a B.S. degree in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois. Dr. Fuehne is a licensed Professional Engineer in both Texas and Indiana.

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


An element of Purdue University’s strategic plan involves encouraging technology education through K-12 outreach programs. Consistent with this mission, the authors applied for and received a grant from the Meridian Kessler Neighborhood Association of Indianapolis to deliver math and science-based workshops using LEGO™ models. The purpose of the Meridian Kessler Neighborhood Association is, “to bring about a closer relationship between all people, welcome new residents and businesses, monitor zoning and guard against illegal conversion of single- family housing, maintain quality schools in the area, and provide adequate municipal services for all residents.” Clearly, their mission revolves around improving the quality of life in their neighborhood and this grant supports that mission. This neighborhood is located approximately 4 miles north of downtown Indianapolis.

The authors worked with personnel from St. Joan of Arc elementary school, located within the neighborhood boundaries, to tailor the workshops for the appropriate grades for maximum effect. There were 46 student participants from the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. The LEGO™ set used for the workshops was the pulleys mini-set. Students were asked to follow directions that included only pictures to assemble several machines using the pulleys. These illustrated directions were important since there were a few students who were challenged to communicate using English.

The students were introduced to some basic engineering concepts in a way they could relate to easily. The workshop encouraged the students to practice their problem solving skills, spatial coordination skills, and critical thinking skills. Several problems without directions or solutions were presented at the end of the workshop. Assessment of learning occurred using a test administered before and after the workshop. Since the students were from the three grades, assessment results and conclusions are presented.


Much has been written recently about the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States. The Indiana Business Review 1, a quarterly publication of the Indiana Business Research Center, Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, discussed these issues in its 2005 outlook for all counties in Indiana. In the outlook for Marion County 2, where the Meridian Kessler neighborhood is located, the review noted that real median family income has dropped 2.7 percent and there is no dynamic growth in the local economy. Additionally, the unemployment rate increased from 2004 to 2005. Adding to this is that in 2003, 51.4% of public school students in Marion County were eligible for free or reduced free lunch and that the poverty rate in Marion County for children under 18 is greater than 18%. Clearly, with falling economic and job prospects, the students in Marion County may benefit from an outreach program that introduces engineering and technology and the associated careers in a fun and engaging atmosphere.

With these issues in mind, a program called Learning with LEGOTMs has been developed by the Purdue University at Columbus to introduce technology and teamwork to at-risk and minority elementary school students in the fourth to sixth grades. At-risk participants are identified as those elementary students who are eligible for reduced or free lunch at their school. This

Ratcliff, M., & Fuehne, J. (2006, June), Partnering With A Neighborhood Association To Bring Technology To At Risk Urban Students Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--454

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