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Preparing High School Students to Succeed in STEM Fields via an Early College Experience

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Technical Session 16

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Kathryn Schulte Grahame Northeastern University

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Dr. Kathryn Schulte Grahame is an Associate Teaching Professor at Northeastern University and a member of the first-year engineering team. The focus of this team is on providing a consistent, comprehensive, and constructive educational experience that endorses the student-centered, professional and practice-oriented mission of Northeastern University.
She teaches the Cornerstone of Engineering courses to first-year students as well as courses within the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. She is a recent recipient of the Outstanding Teacher of First-Year Students Award and is interested in research that compliments and informs her teaching.

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Christos Zahopoulos Northeastern University

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Christos Zahopoulos is tenured Associate Professor at Northeastern University, with appointments in the Graduate School of Education, the Department of Physics and the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership. He also is the Founder and the former Executive Director of Northeastern University's Center for STEM Education. For more than 30 years, Professor Christos Zahopoulos has been actively involved in STEM Education at the local, state and national levels, playing a key role in initiating and implementing numerous STEM Education programs and partnerships, which have received more than $30 million in grants and gifts. He has served in numerous STEM Education Boards, including the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. Professor Zahopoulos received his Ph.D. degree in Physics from Northeastern University and was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Division of Applied Sciences at Harvard University.

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Rajini Jesudason Northeastern University

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Raj Jesudason is a mathematics instructor at Northeastern University. Raj's passion is to empower underserved communities through mathematics education. Raj has worked with the Boston Public Schools as a mathematics Program Director and has worked at various universities like Harvard, Wellesley, UMass Boston and Wheelock Colleges. Raj has also been a Dean of Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering at a community college in California and has helped to implement initiatives in asset-based instruction in Boston School District. Raj has lived and worked abroad (Africa/Asia) and is interested in tying quality research to the practice of those in the field and community.

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Over three years, a private university, an urban high school, and an industry partner have collaborated to create a program to address the increasing need for a diverse and highly skilled STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) workforce with a focus on Clean Energy. This program offered high school students a credit earning, hands-on, freshman college-level engineering design course with the goal of increasing their interest in STEM careers.

Each of the three years, a cohort of high school students from one of the city’s most diverse and racially representative schools was selected to be a part of this program. Each cohort of students took a college introductory engineering design course taught by a university professor and supported by a diverse group of university student mentors and a Clean Energy Industry Engineer. Furthermore, each cohort engaged in a group hands-on clean energy project. The overall partnership model was similar from year to year, but lessons learned between the iterations were considered and new ideas were implemented to attempt to add value to the cohort’s experience.

A mixed-method external evaluation was conducted for each cohort. The evaluator collected baseline and end-of program survey data from participating students, conducted focus groups of students and program leaders, performed secondary analysis of exam data, and administered a survey to those who had completed in 2019.

Analysis of quantitative and qualitative data reveal that students participating in the program reported increased interest in clean energy and engineering careers, increased content knowledge, and increased confidence in succeeding in college. An independent analysis of participating students matched with that of college students found that the participating high school students performed comparably to university students.

Follow up surveys administered in late 2019 and early 2020 found that program participants reported the program helped them to understand what to expect in college, succeed in college, succeed in STEM courses in college, and know what to expect from a STEM job. The majority of students reported that they were currently in a STEM undergraduate program, in a STEM career, or studying for a graduate degree in STEM. This program can serve as a model for any partnership between Institutes of Higher Education (IHE), industry, and high schools serving students underrepresented in STEM fields.

Schulte Grahame, K., & Zahopoulos, C., & Jesudason, R. (2020, June), Preparing High School Students to Succeed in STEM Fields via an Early College Experience Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35080

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