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WORK IN PROGRESS: Teaching Broadly-Applicable STEM Skills to High School Sophomores Using Linux and Smartphones

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Computers in Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Daniel Brian Limbrick North Carolina A&T State University

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Dr. Daniel Limbrick is an assistant professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T). As director of the Automated Design for Emerging Process Technologies (ADEPT) laboratory at NC A&T, he researches ways to make computers more reliable (i.e., radiation hardening) and scalable (e.g., three-dimensional integration) through novel approaches to electronic design automation (e.g., Logic Synthesis, Placement, Routing) and computer architecture. Dr. Limbrick also researches ways to design digital microfluidics-based lab-on-a-chip to be faster and capable of more complex functionality.

Dr. Limbrick teaches computer design at multiple levels of abstraction. He created the STEM Scholars program at NC A&T, which trains high school students in Linux shell scripting, data plotting, and algorithm design and engages them in an algorithm design competition. Additionally, Dr. Limbrick created a Linux laboratory for undergraduate students at NC A&T, with the goal of exposing students to Linux, shell scripting, open source software, and Linux-specific design tools in order to prepare them for future employment in engineering.

Prior to his time at NC A&T, Dr. Limbrick held a postdoctoral appointment at the Georgia Institute of Technology and received his graduate degrees (M.S. 2009, Ph. D. 2012) in Electrical Engineering at Vanderbilt University.

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A new program, STEM Scholars, was created to teach high school students skills that are consistent across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. STEM Scholars is a partnership between a doctoral-granting four-year university and a local high school to develop an extra-curricular activity for high school students. The program enlisted 24 sophomore high school students that included 8 female students and 7 students of any gender from a minority group that is under-represented in STEM careers. Students are exposed to Unix/Linux, data plotting, shell scripting, and algorithm design. Such skills are necessary for solving research problems in disciplines that use numerical and heuristic methods.

STEM Scholars includes bi-weekly hour-long seminars that teach students through hands-on training of Ubuntu Linux, bash shell programming/scripting, and GNUplot data plotting software. Additionally, the students compete in teams to design an algorithm that solves a puzzle in FreeFlow, a puzzle game that runs on Android/iOS platforms. This program aims to engage high school students by using example problems that are relevant to their current studies. Therefore, math problems were taken from a Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) workbook as well as a Calculus textbook. An additional goal is that the students continue the exercises independent of the seminar. To this end, the puzzle game can be accessed from a smart phone and the tools that are used in the seminar are freely available.

This program has the potential to benefit both high school students and universities. High school students are exposed to the STEM curriculum and the university environment. Additionally, the examples used in the program provide preparation for both the SAT exam and Calculus. The university benefits by creating relationships with potential applicants that will be better prepared for the their curriculum. Success of the program will be measured through the results of a post-assessment survey (quantitative 5-point Likert scale) of the participants, as well as a survey of non-participants from higher grade levels of the same high school. The measured outcomes will be based on the participants' interest, knowledge, and future engagement in algorithms, research, Linux, and pursing STEM careers. Data on one year of the program will be available to present at the conference.

Limbrick, D. B. (2016, June), WORK IN PROGRESS: Teaching Broadly-Applicable STEM Skills to High School Sophomores Using Linux and Smartphones Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27035

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