Asee peer logo

Voices of the Millennial Generation: Connections Between Physics, Scientific Literacy and Attitudes towards Future Space Exploration

Download Paper |


2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Physics and Physics Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics and Physics

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Danielle Roslyn Montecalvo American University

visit author page

Danielle Montecalvo is a May 2018 graduate from American University in Washington, D.C. with a B.A. in International Studies and Physics. She recently served as an intern on the Space Studies Board at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine and for the Office of International and Interagency Relations at NASA Headquarters, where she worked on space policy initiatives and public outreach projects. In the fall of 2018, she will begin her service as a Secondary Education English Teacher as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar. Danielle is passionate about physics and STEM education and engaging women in science, and she plans on incorporating science and math into the classroom during her service abroad. Her research focuses on the importance of how collegiate-level physics and other STEM courses can play a critical role in enhancing scientific literacy and shaping overall attitudes towards space policy, particularly within the millennial population.

visit author page


Teresa L. Larkin American University

visit author page

Teresa L. Larkin is an Associate Professor of Physics Education and Director and Faculty Liaison to the Dual-degree engineering Program at American University. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with emphasis in Physics and Science Education from Kansas State University. Dr. Larkin is involved with Physics Education Research (PER) and has published widely on topics related to the assessment of student learning in introductory physics and engineering courses. Noteworthy is her work with student writing as a learning and assessment tool in her introductory physics courses for non-majors. She has been an active member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) for about 30 years. Dr. Larkin served on the Board of Directors for ASEE from 1997-1999 as Chair of Professional Interest Council (PIC) III and as Vice President of PICs. She has received numerous national and international awards including the ASEE Fellow Award in 2016 and the Distinguished Educator and Service Award from the Physics and Engineering Physics Division in 1998. Dr. Larkin received the Outstanding Teaching in the General Education Award from AU in 2000. In January 2014 the Center for Teaching, Research and Learning at AU presented Dr. Larkin with the Milton and Sonia Greenberg Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award 2013. In 2013 her paper entitled “Breaking with Tradition: Using the Conference Paper as a Case for Alternative Assessment in Physics” received an award for best paper in a special session entitled Talking about Teaching (TaT’13), at the 42nd International Conference on Engineering Pedagogy (IGIP) held in Kazan, Russia. In 2000 – 2001 she served as a National Science Foundation ASEE Visiting Scholar. Dr. Larkin is the author of a book chapter published in 2010 entitled “Women’s Leadership in Engineering” in K. O’Connor (Ed.) Gender and Women’s Leadership: A Reference Handbook (Vol. 2, pp. 689 – 699). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Dr. Larkin can be reached at

visit author page

Download Paper |


Throughout the last half-century, there has been a dramatic increase and interest in space exploration across the globe. Scientific literacy may play a critical role in determining public opinion as well as public support to continuing funding space exploration activities. Increasing the scientific literacy of the current generation of millennial students is of paramount importance for many reasons. One very basic, yet critically important reason is that today’s millennial generation of students will soon become tomorrow’s generation of decision-makers. Motivated by a 2009 study conducted by Cook, et al. with 155 undergraduate students at Syracuse University [1], through a pilot study this paper will focus on the survey instrument and methodologies used to address how the scientific literacy of undergraduate students may play a role in their shaping their attitudes toward space exploration. The primary question which serves as the backdrop of the present study is: How does the scientific literacy of millennial-aged undergraduate students affect their attitudes toward space exploration? To address this question, survey questions were adapted from the original Cook study and are outlined in the paper. Based on an analysis of the preliminary data collected in the pilot study, necessary modifications to the survey questions were made. With a focus on attitudes towards space exploration, this work in progress paper provides a summary of how the pilot study was used to inform the data collection methodologies as well as to make any necessary modifications to the survey instrument for future studies. Finally, connections to the critical role that courses in physics can play in terms of preparing both STEM and non-STEM millennial-aged students to become more scientifically literate members of society will be made.

Montecalvo, D. R., & Larkin, T. L. (2018, June), Voices of the Millennial Generation: Connections Between Physics, Scientific Literacy and Attitudes towards Future Space Exploration Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31229

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015