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Renewable Energy Internships: Study of Seventh and Eighth Grade Students Knowledge of Related Science and Engineering Content

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1238.1 - 22.1238.18



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Paper Authors


Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh Arizona State University

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Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh is Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He has bachelor's and masters degrees in Computer Science and Engineering and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. His research interests include educational research methods, communication of research, and k-16+ engineering education. Ganesh’s research is largely focused on studying k-12 curricula, and teaching-learning processes in both the formal and informal settings. He is principal investigator of the Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers project, Learning through Engineering Design and Practice (2007 - 2011), a National Science Foundation Award# 0737616 from the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings. This project is aimed at designing, implementing, and systematically studying the impact of a middle-school engineering education program.

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Johnny Thieken Arizona State University

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John Thieken, M.Ed., is currently a high school mathematics teacher at the Paradise Valley School District and a doctoral student in the Ph.D. in mathematics education at Arizona State University. He has as Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Northern Arizona University and a Masters in Secondary Education from Old Dominion University. His experiences with the district include curriculum design (to include online coursework) and assessment design (district district assessment exams and Arizona Instrument of Measurement Standards practice). Johnny is currently involved in doctoral research (Learning through Engineering Design and Practice, NSF ITEST Award# 0737616, 2007-11) under the guidance of PI Ganesh and Dr. James A Middleton and Dr. Finbarr Sloane, where he engages in measurement and analysis methodology design, data analysis (quantitative and qualitative), curriculum design, curriculum implementation, and sustainability.

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Lisa Stapley Randall Arizona State University

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Lisa Randall, MEd., is a K-12 teacher currently working with the National Science Foundation project, Learning through Engineering Design and Practice at Arizona State University. She has a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Brigham Young Univerisity and a Masters in Educational Counseling. Her 14 years of teaching with Mesa Public Schools include curriculum design (middle school and high school) in the field of Bioengineering, partnerships with Motorola and the Arizona Science Center and district-wide teacher training. Lisa is currently studying to obtain her second Masters in the field of Administration and Leadership at Arizona State University.

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Alison W. Smith SRP

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Alison W. Smith, M.Ed. Alison holds a Bachelor of Science in Educational Studies (minor in Special Education) and a Master of Education in Teaching and Learning (emphasis in English for speakers of other languages), both from the University of Oregon. Alison was a fourth grade teacher at Excelencia Elementary School in the Creighton School District in Phoenix, Arizona, receiving numerous awards and honors for her teaching. Alison is passionate about education, and the innovative teaching of science and math. Alison currently works as SRP’s Community Outreach Liaison to Education.

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Renewable Energy Internships: Study of 7th and 8th Grade Students Knowledge of Related Science and Engineering ContentAbstractThis paper describes research efforts and results of summer renewable energy internships offeredto middle school students enrolled in a two-year year-round research internship. Researchmethods used to study program impact included statistical analysis of pre- and post- tests,qualitative research techniques of eliciting information using journal writing, focus groups, andobservation. This project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) fundedInformation Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program aimed atenhancing traditionally underrepresented youths’ interest in Science, Technology, Engineering,and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. Disciplinary experts from a university worked with scientistsand engineers at a local water and energy company to design and offer renewable energyinternships to participant middle school students.This industry internship with a local energy and water service provider resulted in activitieswhere participants interacted with industry employees and also engaged in engineering designchallenges such as: a) designing a solar oven to cook a hot dog, b) designing a wind turbine topower a set of LEDs, c) designing a water turbine to power a set of LEDs, and d) using ahydrogen fuel cell to power a toy-car. The full paper will describe the curricular units offeredduring the renewable energy internships, the strategies used to deliver experiences (e.g.,cognitive apprenticeships, project-based learning, the engineering design process, and inquiry-based learning via instructional planning with the learning cycle), and the ways in which studentlearning was assessed.Pre and post assessments in the form of open-ended questions related to content in the curricularunits were administered. Assessments were analyzed to determine what impact the project hadon student learning and student interests in related STEM content. A two-way repeated measuresANOVA was conducted to compare differences in the relationship between pre and postassessment scores (see Table 1). Students made poster presentations and demonstrated theproducts they designed in each of the challenges. Presentations were made to family members,industry partners, and educators.Data revealed that by engaging youth in learning experiences that emphasizes both utilitarian andinquiry-based motivations, where learning is made relevant to students’ lives, the outcome leadsto enhanced learning in content areas. We have also learned that systematic efforts are needed,such as those described in this paper where students interact with engineers in their workplacesto dispel misunderstandings regarding STEM subjects and professions. Students hadopportunities to interact with engineers at a water treatment plant and learn about tools andtechnologies used to test water quality. In addition, participants interacted with engineers whodeal with various issues related to the energy industry informally over lunch and hadopportunities to ask questions about the nature of their work, their educational pathways and howthe water and energy company functions to meet societal needs. Coordinated and carefullydesigned in-depth and long-term experiences are needed to provide students and families withknowledge of STEM education and career pathways.Table 1. Paired Samples Statistics for various curricular units Mean SD Mean EffectUnit Assessment N t P Difference SizeDesign water Pre 10.32 8.21 18 70.24 19.99 <0.001 3.99 Post car

Ganesh, T. G., & Thieken, J., & Randall, L. S., & Smith, A. W. (2011, June), Renewable Energy Internships: Study of Seventh and Eighth Grade Students Knowledge of Related Science and Engineering Content Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18999

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