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RTP Design as the Practice of Probability: Engaging Adolescent Girls in Art-Infused Engineering

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Diversity Issues in K-12 and Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Deborah M. Grzybowski The Ohio State University

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Dr. Deborah Grzybowski is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Engineering Education and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The Ohio State University. She received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and her B.S. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University. Her research focuses on making engineering accessible to all students, including students with visual impairments, through the use of art-infused curriculum and models. Prior to becoming focused on student success and retention, her research interests included regulation of intracranial pressure and transport across the blood-brain barrier in addition to various ocular-cellular responses to fluid forces and the resulting implications in ocular pathologies.

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Kerry Dixon The Ohio State University

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Kerry Dixon is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Teaching and Learning within the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. She is a specialist in interdisciplinary education, with particular focus on integrating visual art into science, technology, engineering and math. Formerly a member of the curatorial staff at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Kerry has also directed two education nonprofit organizations and partnered with The Ohio State University on the creation of a national model for preparing future secondary teachers with a specialization in urban education. In that role, she lead an Innovative Curriculum Design Team and directed OSU faculty and students in the research component of the project. On the smART project, Kerry serves as the arts partner and K-12 education specialist.

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This research focuses on short- and long-term strategies for addressing the marked shortcoming of women and underrepresented minorities (in particular, women of low socio-economic status), in engineering careers by uniting engineering and visual art education. Four goals have been identified (1) engage Columbus City Schools’ middle school students in engineering, (2) provide students with foundational knowledge and skills required in the field of engineering, and (3) create alignment between substantive after-school engineering education and in school science instruction. To actualize these goals, four community partners—The Ohio State University College of Engineering, Columbus City Schools, Beta by Design, and The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) —have joined together to develop the initial framework of an engineering club for middle school students at Metro Middle School. The framework will also be tested in a second context: an after-school STEM club at an economically disadvantaged urban Middle School. The project leverages the unique capacities of visual art to engage students through personally meaningful projects, and in so doing, increase participation in after-school engineering activities by an under-represented and under-served population. It will also explore, from a research-based perspective, how visual art can increase STEM mastery, with a particular emphasis on the spatial visualization and creative thinking skills that are necessary for success in the engineering domain. Finally, the framework will provide a model for aligning after-school and in-school engineering education through a strategy centered on co-planning and co-facilitation of the integrated learning experiences by a team of faculty and students, informal learning providers, teaching artists and interdisciplinary/arts-integration experts.

The purpose of the proposed research study is to test the hypothesis that when substantive engineering-visual art integration is undertaken by traditionally underserved and under-represented (socio-economically disadvantaged) middle school students, they will (1) become more engaged with engineering, (2) increase their knowledge of engineering and spatial visualization skills, (3) be more confident in engineering and (4) demonstrate more positive attitudes toward engineering, including an interest in pursuing engineering careers.

To test their hypothesis, researchers will implement a quasi-experimental design, complemented by qualitative methods, in two middle schools within the (removed) Schools district. In each school, there will be one treatment and one control group, allowing for comparisons between the treatment and control groups within each, as well as across the two sites. The treatment will be weekly visual art after-school clubs, into which engineering is integrated. The control groups will be weekly after-school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) clubs into which no visual art is introduced. This is a two-year study, which will be implemented in one site during the first year and in both sites during the second year. In the school that will have the clubs implemented in both years, two peer mentors will self-select from the year one cohort in each club to participate as near-peers in the year two cohorts. The effect of these near-peers, if any, will be determined through the focus groups and semi-structured interviews.

Data will be collected through surveys pre and post, which will be administered to treatment and control groups Data will include standardized test scores of participants in treatment and control groups. Additionally, data will be collected from the control groups through focus groups. For the treatment group, data collection will also include observations, focus groups, semi-structured interviews, field notes, artifacts such as photographs and videos of students participating in the clubs, and student artworks. Six participating teachers (two per school per year) will also be included in the study through qualitative methods. Teacher data will be collected through observations, focus groups and semi-structured interviews. It will include artifacts such as photographs and videos of teachers participating in the clubs and field notes.

This paper will report on the results from the first year of this study.

Grzybowski, D. M., & Dixon, K. (2016, June), RTP Design as the Practice of Probability: Engaging Adolescent Girls in Art-Infused Engineering Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26126

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