Impactathons: Student-Led Peer-to-Peer Learning in Community Social-Change Technology Projects

Saturday, September 1, 2018 to Monday, August 31, 2020
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Afterschool Programs, Community Outreach Programs, Public Events and Festivals, Informal/Formal Connections, Higher Education Programs
Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Undergraduate/Graduate Students | Adults | General Public | Scientists
Computing and information science | Technology
Access and Inclusion: 
Hispanic/Latinx Communities
University of California-Santa Cruz

This pilot study will examine the effectiveness of an innovative applied social change, community and technology based program on marginalized youths' access, interest, efficacy and motivation to learn and engage in digital technology applications. Using stratified near-peer and peer-to-peer mentoring approaches, the pilot builds on extant literature that indicates that peer-supported hands-on mentoring and experiences can alleviate some barriers to youth engagement in digital technologies, particularly among underrepresented groups. In this project, undergraduate students will mentor and work collaboratively with high school youth primarily of Hispanic descent and community-based organizations to develop creative technology-based solutions to address social issues and challenges within their local communities, culminating in events called Impactathons. These community-hosted local and state-wide events set this pilot project apart from similar work in the field. The Impactathons not only provide a space for intellectual discourse and problem-solving among the undergraduate-youth-community partners but the Impactathons will also codify expertise from scientists, social scientists, technologists, community leaders, and other stakeholders to develop technology-based solutions with real world application. If successful, a distal outcome will be increased youth interest in digital technologies and related fields. In the short term, favorable findings will provide preliminary evidence of success and lay the foundation for a more extensive study in the future.

This pilot project is a collaboration between the Everett Program, a student-led program for Technology and Social Change at the University of California Santa Cruz - a Hispanic Serving Institution - and the Digital NEST, a non-profit, high-tech youth career development and collaboration space for young people ages 14-24. Through this partnership and other recruitment efforts, an estimated 70-90 individuals will participate in the Impactathon pilot program over two years. Nearly two-thirds of the participants are expected to be undergraduate students. They will receive extensive training in near-peer and peer-to-peer mentoring and serve as mentors for and co-innovation developers with the high school youth participants. The undergraduates and youth will partner with local community organizations to identify a local social challenge that can be addressed through a technology-based solution. The emergent challenges will vary and could span the spectrum of STEM and applied social science topics of interest. Working in informal contexts (i.e., afterschool. weekend), the undergraduate-youth-community partner teams will work collaboratively to develop practical technology-based solutions to real world challenges. The teams will convene three times per year, locally and statewide, at student and community led Impactathons to share their work and glean insights from other teams to refine their innovations. In parallel, the research team will examine the effectiveness of the Impactathon model in increasing the undergraduate and youths' interest, motivation, excitement, engagement and learning of digital technologies. In addition to the research, the formative and summative evaluations should provide valuable insights on the effectiveness of the model and its potential for expansion and replication.

The project is co-funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) Program and STEM +C. The AISL program seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. STEM + C focuses on research and development of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to the integration of computing within STEM teaching and learning for preK-12 students in both formal and informal settings.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Funding Program: 
STEM + Computing (STEM+C) Part, AISL
Award Number: 
Funding Amount: 

Team Members

Chris BennerChris BennerPrincipal Investigator

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