Making in The Colonias: Motivating STEM Participation through a Making as Micro-Manufacturing Model
As part of an overall strategy to enhance learning within maker contexts in formal and informal environments, the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) and Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) programs partnered to support innovative models in Making poised to catalyze new approaches in STEM learning and innovation. Employing a novel design and development approach, this Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) will test the feasibility of integrating Making concepts with real world micro-manufacturing engineering principles within the context of intense, multi-year team apprenticeship experiences for high school students. The apprenticeship model is particularly novel, as current Making research and experiences predominately take place in afterschool and summer programs for up to 25 youth. The proposed apprenticeships will require a two year commitment by a small cohort of Texas high school students, which will provide an opportunity to examine the feasibility and impact of the effort longitudinally. The cohort will learn to think critically, solve problems, and work together as a Making Production Team (MPT) in a customized makerspace in their high school, constructing engineering-based science kits for implementation in a local elementary school. Not only will the students enhance their content knowledge while developing design and development skills but the students will also receive stipends which will address two very practical needs for the targeted high need population - employment and workforce development. Few, if any, efforts currently serve the targeted population through the contextualization of Making within a supply chain management and micro-manufacturing framework that extends the Making experience by integrating the student designed products into elementary classrooms. As such, this project will contribute to essentially unexplored areas of Making research and development.
Six high school students from high poverty, underserved Texas communities along the Texas-Mexico border (colonias) will be selected for the Making Production Team (MPT). In Years 1 and 2, the students will meet regularly during the academic school year and over the summer with Texas A & M University undergraduates, graduate students, and the project team to learn key aspects of Making and manufacturing (i.e., ideation, prototyping, design, acquisition, personnel, and production) through hands-on making activities and direct instruction. Concurrently, a research study will be conducted to explore: (a) the actualization of the model in an underserved community, (b) the effectiveness of problem-based learning to train students in the model, and (c) STEM knowledge and self-concept. Data will be collected from multiple sources. An adapted version of the Academic Self-Description Questionnaire will be administered to the students to assess their STEM technical knowledge and skills as well as their self-concept in relation to STEM domains. Remote and in person interviews will be conducted with the students to track the evolution of the primary dependent variables, STEM learning and self-concept, over time. Program facilitators and partners will be interviewed to examine the feasibility of the making experience within the given context and for the targeted students. Finally, the students' diary reflections, products, and video recordings of their work sessions will also be examined. Time-series quantitative tests and in-depth qualitative methods will be used to analyze the data.