Project Opening Doors: An AP mathematics and science strategy to prepare underrepresented students for college success and STEM careers
The Education Foundation of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) is partnering with the Connecticut Science Center, Connecticut College of Technology, EASTCONN (a Regional Education Service Center), and CBIA member companies on an ITEST strategies project to encourage and prepare 9th and 10th grade minority and low-income, first-generation college students for enrollment in Advanced Placement courses in math, science and English in Project Opening Doors (POD) schools in Connecticut. POD, Connecticut's National Math and Science Initiative, is designed to increase enrollment of underserved and minority students in 11th and 12th grade AP classes and improve their educational performance, success in post-secondary education, and eventual employment in science and technology based companies. The ITEST project is a pre-AP initiative designed to excite and motivate students in the sciences and technology and prepare them for the rigor of AP coursework in POD project schools. Over the three-year grant period, 1,020 9th and 10th grade students and 30 teachers from eight to ten POD schools participate in exciting cyberlearning activities designed to stimulate student interest in AP STEM subjects. Activities include the year-long the "How Cool is This? Cyber-Challenge," with companies including Pfizer, United Technologies, General Electric, and Northeast Utilities, providing thought-provoking, relevant challenges to student industry teams. The teams, made up of 9th and 10th grade students from different schools, collaborate virtually to solve their challenge using 2.0 tools including online conferencing and chat tools (Bridgit, Skype, ooVoo) email, wikis, collaborative documents and other related emerging technologies. The Cyber-Challenge culminates with student industry teams presenting their solutions in a multi-media format to peers and industry representatives in the Connecticut Science Center's IMAX Theater. Finished projects are posted on the program's social networking website. During the year, teams take part in a variety of supplemental activities to underscore the relevance of STEM courses, including college programs such as Engineering Challenge, State Scholars presentations by industry representatives, and field trips to companies. Accompanying teacher professional development includes industry externships and training on 2.0 tools needed to oversee student progress and bolster their technology skills. An external evaluator will assess student interest in STEM subjects and perceptions of STEM careers using pre- and post-test surveys for each activity; program staff will track student enrollment in AP courses. The project advisory board includes industry representatives, educators, and education experts.