June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
24.1057.1 - 24.1057.13
Roads, Rails and Race Cars: a STEM Educational Program for 4th-12th Grade StudentsMany U.S. public school systems have experienced declining scores in standardized math andscience tests – of particular worry is the increasing disparity between the scores of studentsconsidered underprivileged and underserved amongst other peer groups. This trend is a concernfor the engineering field and has been identified as a major issue by the US Department ofTransportation as it is seen as a threat to the sustainability of the nation’s infrastructure andeconomic growth amid a growing demand for skilled workers within the transportation industry.Recognizing these concerns, a number of entities including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’sMid-America and Nebraska Transportation Centers, the Nebraska Department of Education andLincoln Public Schools, developed a consortium to address this issue. In 2010, this consortiumcreated and implemented an after school program to foster learning and engagement in science,technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) known as The Roads, Rails and Race Cars(RRRC) program. Since its inception, the program has delivered a transportation-basedcurriculum to over 700 primary and secondary school students in Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsinclassrooms.RRRC utilizes a science-as-inquiry approach in a club-based format. Club lessons and activitieshighlight real world applications of STEM concepts – emphasizing transportation issues thatstudents encounter in their daily lives – through a curriculum that was developed collaborativelyby partners from the fields of engineering, education and educational psychology. Clubs areguided by teams consisting of STEM teachers and college engineering student mentors, whomirror the rich diversity of the primary and secondary school systems. This positive rolemodeling and one-on-one attention are a key focus wherein the program encourages students toexplore STEM careers and discover paths to achievement. Further, clubs frequently featurecareer presentations by community professionals from the private sector to encourage this careerexploration.While establishing itself as a sustainable program model that positively impacts students, RRRChas also benefitted its multiple partners: K-12 teachers have received additional training inSTEM education that they can implement in their core classrooms; student mentors have gainedopportunities to improve their interpersonal and public speaking skills; and community partners,such as the Nebraska Trucking Association, have gained opportunities to reach out to their futureworkforce.Following highly successful middle school pilot programs, RRRC has expanded to include theelementary and high school levels, providing evidence of successful transferability across agegroups and locations. To date, club attendance has reached over 5,200 across 12 separateprogram sites and continues to be evaluated through qualitative and quantitative metrics in orderto ensure that the goals of the program are being met and to identify potential areas forimprovement.This paper describes an overview of the RRRC program development and goals, as well asprovides both pre and post measures of effectiveness and concluding remarks on future programapplications.
Baker, C. M., & Rilett, L. R., & Kunz, G. M., & Nugent, G. C. (2014, June), Roads, Rails, and Race Cars: A STEM Educational Program for 4th-12th Grade Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22990
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