Building IT and Career Self-Efficacy in Young Women by Entering and Measuring the Universe: The Universe Quest
In West Oakland, CA, 180 girls ages 13-16 develop IT and science knowledge and skills by creating computer games based on modern astrophysical exploration and collaboration.
The University of California's Space Sciences Laboratory, in collaboration with ASA Academy and Community Science Center, Girl Scouts of Northern California, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, will implement the Universe Quest (UQ) project. Additional project partners include Sightspeed Video Conferencing and Quest G, a leading video game developer. Universe Quest will provide a total of 180 girls ages 13-16 from underrepresented populations in Oakland and Richmond with a unique opportunity to learn IT skills in the context of studying the universe with modern technology. The three year project includes hands-on astronomy activities; image processing and SQL query development; bi-monthly family sessions; technology talks (live and via videoconferencing); community service; internships at technology companies; and leadership development. Young women will also have a chance to author journeys and challenges in a multi-user Universe Quest Internet game. To reach a broader group of participants, in years 2 and 3 girls will be introduced to Universe Quest through the development of another intensive site and also through weekend and follow-up sessions at the Chabot (140 students at the Chabot Space and Science Center and 40 students in the intensive ASA.Elmhurst-Alliance track). Universe Quest Teaching Assistants will be drawn from UC-Berkeley and include young women pursuing science and technology degrees. This project exposes participants to multiple paths in IT careers. A comprehensive evaluation plan measures IT skills, self-efficacy, and STEM career interests, while a longitudinal study will track students for 12 months to ascertain how science career efficacy and STEM career interest change over time and how the change is related to extended participation in UQ. Although this project will directly reach 180 girls with intensive and introductory experiences, the completed Universe Quest game will be disseminated broadly not only to Girl Scouts of Northern California, but to more than 3 million girls nationally as part of the Girls Go Tech initiative.