Zairelys A. Reyes Rivera - University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus
Co-Author(s): Johana Mercado-Colón, Cristina Pomales-Garcia, and Agnes Padovani, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus
The Interdisciplinary Education Group within CREST Nanotechnology Center at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM), leads the Center’s outreach program. In partnership with over 20 Western Puerto Rico Public Schools, outreach activities in 2014-2016 have impacted over 500 low income students through Material Science and Engineering (MSE) Clubs. Each year the Center supports up to 18 MSE Clubs through visits twice per semester, to offer STEM centered activities. We hypothesise that MSE Club activities have a direct and positive impact in students’ perspectives and perceptions about STEM, motivating and encouraging them to learn about and choose STEM fields for their college education. A pre-post questionnaire was implemented to monitor the efficacy of the MSE Club Program. The questionnaire served to test the impact of the activities in student perceptions and perspectives about STEM. MSE Club members completed the questionnaire as a pre-post test at the beginning and end of the academic year. In 2015, 22% (N=131) of members from 47% of the 17 active MSE Clubs, submitted answers to the questionnaires (64% middle school and 36% high school students; 64% females and 35% males). To test our hypothesis, responses were coded, and data was analyzed using descriptive statistics and Fisher’s exact test. Results show that students had a positive perception about engineering. Over 90% agreed that engineering: “is worth studying, is a respected profession, requires creativity, and has had a positive effect and contribution to the world”. They also perceived engineers as “innovators and working to improve the wellbeing of society”. Participants viewed themselves as creative (88%), with problem solving skills (85%) and with interest in technical activities (93%). Fisher’s exact test results showed a significant shift in engineering perceptions related to “needing more than a bachelor’s degree to practice the engineering profession, understanding what engineers do and engineering as a teamwork profession”. There was also a change in participant’s involvement in science based activities during the year, with increased participation in Science Fair (48%), research projects with college faculty (109%) and summer camps (22%). Findings also show a 36% increase in perceived knowledge, 23% increased interest in Science, Materials, Engineering and Nanotechnology areas, and a 33% interest increase in pursuing degrees in STEM fields. These findings provide evidence to support our hypothesis. Future research will explore personal and family expectations about pursuing higher education degrees, perceived difficulties to start college and the relationship between perceptions, interests and personal background.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant HRD 1345156, awarded to O. Marcelo Suarez, Director of the CREST Phase II Nanotechnology Center, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez.
Faculty Advisor: Cristina D. Pomales García, email@example.com
Role: As part of the Interdisciplinary Education Group, my role in this research was to participate in school visits and perform the data entry and data validation. As part of the research team, I worked in the statistical analysis and summary the results.