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The Impact Of K 12 Outreach Programs On Graduate And Undergraduate Experiences

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Engineering Student Involvement in K-12 Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1430.1 - 12.1430.23



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Paper Authors


Kate Caldwell North Carolina State University

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Kate Caldwell received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and is currently a second year master's student in Mechanical Engineering at North Carolina State University. Her research focus is on composites. She has been an NSF-GE Foundation RAMP-UP fellow for the past two years.

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Jessica McCoy North Carolina State University

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Jessica McCoy received her B.S. and will complete her master's in Industrial Engineering at North Carolina State University in July, 2007. She is a first year NSF-GE Foundation RAMP-UP fellow.

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Lynn Albers North Carolina State University

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Lynn Albers is a second-year NSF-GE Foundation RAMP-UP graduate fellow. She received her B.S. in Mathematics with a minor in Music from MIT in 1992 and her M.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Nuclear Engineering from Manhattan College in 1996. After working for Nortel Networks and the NC Solar Center, Lynn matriculated at North Carolina State University where she is a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering, focusing on renewable energy.

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Althea Smith North Carolina State University

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Althea Smith is a PhD candidate in Biomathematics at North Carolina State University. She is also an NSF-GE Foundation RAMP-UP fellow.

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Elizabeth Parry North Carolina State University

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Elizabeth Parry received her B.S. in Engineering Management-Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1983. After working for IBM for 10 years, Ms. Parry left to raise her children and start a science education business. Since 1999, she has directed two major grant programs for the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University. Currently, she is the project director for RAMP-UP (Recognizing Accelerated Math Potential in Underrepresented People), a five year program focusing on outreach to strengthen K-12 math, science and engineering knowledge and funded by NSF and the GE Foundation.

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

The Impact of K-12 Outreach Programs on Graduate and Undergraduate Experiences


The impact of university-initiated educational outreach programs extends beyond K-12 students and teachers to benefit university fellows. A case study done by one such program, Recognizing Accelerated Math Potential in Underrepresented People (RAMP-UP) demonstrates marked improvements in professional skills for both undergraduate and graduate fellows. The inclusion of undergraduates under the supervision of graduate fellows makes RAMP-UP unique among other GK-12 programs. This program also employs a diverse population of fellows. In fall 2006, 66% of these fellows were female and 52% were minority students – percentages that are well above university averages for the primary partner university, North Carolina State University (NCSU). For more information about the demographic breakdown of the RAMP-UP program, see Figure 5 in the appendix. As a result of participation in this program, fellows increase their community involvement, improve their communication skills and explore many post-graduate career opportunities.

The National Science Foundation awarded the first GK-12 grants in 1999. Since then, universities have created dozens of programs across the country to improve student achievement while developing the service and communication skills of future scientists and engineers [7]. Due to the hypothesized impact on both the K-12 students and the graduate fellows, Rita Colwell as founder of the GK-12 initiative called it a “classic win-win” [6].

In some programs, the weekly commitment may vary, but undergraduate and graduate fellows have the same roles and responsibilities [5][10]. At least one program pairs undergraduates with graduates, and each pair plans and teaches together in a classroom setting [3]. Other K-12 outreach programs incorporate a service component into existing engineering courses so that college students can interact with younger students. A range of semester-long projects exists for undergraduates, from developing an informative museum exhibit aimed at elementary school students to leading semi-annual workshops to interest high school students in careers in engineering [4][9].

In the slightly older tradition of K-12 outreach, researchers have explored the positive influence of service learning on college students. Their results imply that developing curricula for and working with younger students improves the communication skills of college students [1][3][10][11]. Additional studies have suggested that K-12 outreach impacts female students more than their male peers [2][10]. Despite the wealth of knowledge addressing the positive aspects of K-12 outreach to the involved college students, there is concern that the GK-12 initiative was an “overhasty expansion” of NSF resources. At the program’s inception, many university administrators expressed disapproval at the projected costs of the GK-12 program at the expense of the lauded Graduate Research Fellowship program [8]. The shift from a purely-research focus to a hybrid outreach-research program is also a concern. Trautmann and Krasny counter the argument that graduate fellows involved in GK-12 programs are “sidetracked” from their focus on research with evidence that the nontraditional fellowships improve both the students’ teaching skills and their actual research [11].

Caldwell, K., & McCoy, J., & Albers, L., & Smith, A., & Parry, E. (2007, June), The Impact Of K 12 Outreach Programs On Graduate And Undergraduate Experiences Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2701

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