Traditional STEM academic programs have a large discrepancy in participation and engagement between low-income and minority students as compared to their peers from other demographics. This underrepresentation is visible beginning in the classroom and carrying through to higher education and the STEM workforce. The Ware Research Group previously studied the STEM learning environments of low-income communities in Lafayette, IN. Study results suggested that traditionally structured classroom environments were not effective in achieving high levels of participation and engagement in STEM material. To address this deficit, the research group is observing how community-centered STEM programs affect participation and engagement from low-income and minority students. The research group is using FIRST LEGO League (FLL), an internationally recognized STEM program for students in grades 4-8, as the vehicle for STEM education. Two FLL teams have been established in community centers serving the same communities previously studied by the research group. These teams focus on the STEM curriculum developed for the FLL program, focusing on action-based projects and the development of STEM and soft skills. The participating students on the teams range in age from 9-14 and offer a snapshot of the community demographic. This study is collecting qualitative data on student growth based on STEM engagement and overall educational outcomes. The team hypothesized students will see measurable improvements in skills such as programming, critical thinking, and communication. Thus far, qualitative observations have supported the hypothesis; however, the study will need to continue before making final conclusions. Community-based STEM programs may improve student representation in STEM programs and fields. If this study is proven to be successful, it could provide a resource for developing similar community-based stem programming.
Flaningam, Eric; Keyerleber, Hanna; and Embry, Christopher
"Investigating the Effect of Community-Based Educational Robotics Programs on Underrepresented Youth,"
Purdue Journal of Service-Learning and International Engagement: Vol. 8
Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/pjsl/vol8/iss1/10