Factors Influencing the Interest Levels of Male versus Female Students going into STEM Fields (Evaluation)
This paper discusses the factors influencing the interest level of high and middle school underrepresented students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Two groups of students attended outreach summer engineering camps in July of 2017 and 2018 designed to increase the interest of secondary school students in STEM fields. The camps are part of a seven year grant funded by the Department of Education as part of the GEAR UP program. The grant’s overall goal is to help more than 3,000 middle and high school students to enroll and succeed in college by creating a pipeline of academically prepared students. The engineering camps discussed here represent the second and third year of this ongoing project. Data from the first year of the project was not used as that was the pilot year.
Participating students and science teachers spent a week preforming engineering research investigation in collaboration with engineering faculty at a land grant university. The second year camp (2017), focused on the interaction of urban and natural areas and their effect on water quality in a local water shed. In the third year camp (2018), the students had a variety of experiences from using submarines to measure various water properties to using drones to measure air quality. During both summer camps, teacher and student participants developed engineering research hypotheses, developed ways to test those hypotheses and thought like engineers. At the end of each camp, teams of students presented what they learned as well as their research findings via research posters and presentations.
The students completed surveys at the beginning and end of the summer camp that included questions about their interest in STEM, their ability to get good grades in STEM subjects, and their friends’ perception of science. Similarly, the parents of participating students completed surveys about their education, income and perception of science, math and engineering. While the parents did not attend the camps, they were involved via a blog updated daily with a short description of the activities of the day, photos of the day, as well as quotes from the students’ daily journals.
Data from both students and parents was analyzed and correlated to find the factors influencing the students’ interest for the second year camp. The data from the third year camp is being analyzed in conjunction with existing data to find the factors that influences interest and how those factors differ between male and female students. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected simultaneously in a concurrent mixed methods research design, and both streams of data are analyzed together to offer a mixed analysis perspective into the results.
Preliminary results showed an increase in student interest in STEM fields, particularly for those students who started the camps with low interest. Factors influencing the students’ interest in STEM fields included their parents and family, grades they achieve in their science and math courses, their enjoyment of activities involving STEM, and the perception of their friends towards STEM fields among others. The main objective of this current work is to find the differences, if any, in what influences males and females to be interested in STEM.
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