Project Description

Families play a vital role in children's paths toward STEM careers yet little is known about how this influence works. Our NSF-funded project addresses this knowledge gap by developing, implementing, and refining a program for integrating Making and engineering design practices into the home environments of families from under-resourced communities. We hypothesize that an intervention focused on engaging underserved youth and their caregivers about ways to implement Making/engineering design practices in their home will enhance their awareness of and affinity for STEM careers relative to those who do not participate. The project has 3 specific aims. (1) Investigate features of the intervention that best support participation and implementation of Making/engineering design practices in home environments. (2) Investigate changes in each youth's STEM identity in relation to engaging in Making/engineering design practices with caregivers in their home. (3) Examine shifts in parental: (a) views of engineering, (b) support for their child's engagement in engineering design practices, and (c) beliefs about engineering as a viable degree/career option for their child. The project is unique in that it takes a look at how students and families engage in home-based STEM activities. It concurrently assesses families' readiness to support STEM career awareness and children's engagement in home-based STEM activities. The target audience is families with children in grades 3-6 enrolled in underserved schools in Bloomington, Indiana and Broome County, New York. Project partners include the Boys and Girls Clubs in these communities who assist with recruitment and with the delivery of the intervention, Family Making Nights. At home, families will document their design activities as they unfold. Stimulated recall with video and semi-structured interviews will help the research team understand families' thinking about what occurred during the activities. The use of a comparison group allows the team to compare the behaviors and outcomes associated with ""trained"" and "untrained" family supports.

Technology or Computational Component

As this project is unfolding we are finding that in order to support the prototyping and testing of awesome ideas of the kids/families that participate, we need to investigate a number of technological solutions to the problems they identify so we can best guide their projects. For example, this term we had one project that involved developing a robot that could successfully deliver food to someone in bed and a device that would prevent "bullying" of one cat by another in a youth's home. The undergraduate researcher would play a role in helping our team to investigate do-it-yourself solutions to the problems identified by families. There is also the opportunity to work directly with children and families as they build and test their solutions.