The Expansion of a Mobile Making Project That Engages Underserved Youth Across California in STEM
This project is expanding an effective mobile making program to achieve sustainable, widespread impact among underserved youth. Making is a design-based, participant-driven endeavor that is based on a learning by doing pedagogy. For nearly a decade, California State University San Marcos has operated out-of-school making programs for bringing both equipment and university student facilitators to the sites in under-served communities. In collaboration with four other CSU campuses, this project will expand along four dimensions: (a) adding community sites in addition to school sites (b) adding rural contexts in addition to urban/suburban, (c) adding hybrid and online options in addition to in-person), and (d) including future teachers as facilitators in addition to STEM undergraduates. The program uses design thinking as a framework to engage participants in addressing real-world problems that are personally and socially meaningful. Participants will use low- and high-tech tools, such as circuity, coding, and robotics to engage in activities that respond to design challenges. A diverse group of university students will lead weekly, 90-minute activities and serve as near-peer mentors, providing a connection to the university for the youth participants, many of whom will be first-generation college students. The project will significantly expand the Mobile Making program from 12 sites in North San Diego County to 48 sites across California, with nearly 2,000 university facilitators providing 12 hours of programming each year to over 10,000 underserved youth (grades 4th through 8th) during the five-year timeline.
The project research will examine whether the additional sites and program variations result in positive youth and university student outcomes. For youth in grades 4 through 8, the project will evaluate impacts including sustained interest in making and STEM, increased self-efficacy in making and STEM, and a greater sense that making and STEM are relevant to their lives. For university student facilitators, the project will investigate impacts including broadened technical skills, increased leadership and 21st century skills, and increased lifelong interest in STEM outreach/informal science education. Multiple sources of data will be used to research the expanded Mobile Making program's impact on youth and undergraduate participants, compare implementation sites, and understand the program's efficacy when across different communities with diverse learner populations. A mixed methods approach that leverages extant data (attendance numbers, student artifacts), surveys, focus groups, making session feedback forms, observations, and field notes will together be used to assess youth and university student participant outcomes. The project will disaggregate data based on gender, race/ethnicity, grade level, and site to understand the Mobile Making program's impact on youth participants at multiple levels across contexts. The project will further compare findings from different types of implementation sites (e.g., school vs. library), learner groups, (e.g., middle vs. upper elementary students), and facilitator groups (e.g., STEM majors vs. future teachers). This will enable the project to conduct cross-case comparisons between CSU campuses. Project research will also compare findings from urban and rural school sites as well as based on the modality of teaching and learning (e.g., in-person vs. online). The mobile making program activities, project research, and a toolkit for implementing a Mobile maker program will be widely disseminated to researchers, educators, and out-of-school programs.
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