This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by engaging in hands-on field experience, laboratory/project-based entrepreneurship tasks and mentorship experiences.
This project, based on the use of a Project Based Learning (PBL) environment with high school students, is a partnership between Tuskegee University, Auburn University, a rural and an urban school district in the historic Black Belt region of the state of Alabama, and the Alabama State Department of Education. The focus of the partnership is to recruit annually a cohort of thirty ethnically and racially diverse high school students from the partnering school districts for immersion in a STEM intensive PBL four-week "STEM Summer Academy" hosted by Tuskegee University. The Academy is designed to provide 30 rising 10th and 11th grade students annually (90 over the life of the three-year grant) with far-reaching technological experiences through the exciting exploration of aerial drones under a PBL framework. Students in each cohort will form a diverse group in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and residing in urban or rural areas. The key questions being addressed are: (1) What coherent sets of experiences effectively and efficiently support student competency (e.g., knowledge, skills), motivation and persistence for productive participation in the STEM-related workforce of today or in the future? (2) What roles might business and industry workforce members play in motivating students to become aware of, interested in, and prepared for careers in the STEM-related workforce? and (3) Given the shifting demographics reflected in our current classrooms and in our country what are effective and productive ways to ensure broadening participation by engaging diverse underrepresented populations in STEM programs and careers?
The goals of this project have been developed in collaboration with officials from the partner school districts, faculty at Tuskegee University and Auburn University and representatives from the Alabama State Department of Education. They are formulated to determine the impact of immersing students in technology experiences and special partnerships at the STEM Summer Academy based on their STEM interest, STEM knowledge, and awareness of the pathways needed to take for successful STEM careers. A mixed-method design with both qualitative and quantitative data will be used to examine the students' motivation and attitude towards science in a PBL environment.