Project Profile

Strengthening the STEM Pipeline for Elementary School African Americans, Hispanics, and Girls by Scaling Up Summer Engineering Experiences


This is a collaborative proposal among the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Virginia Tech, and Purdue University, submitted to the Successful Project Expansion and Dissemination strand of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. It aims to expand the implementation of a NSBE-supported program, "Summer Engineering Experiences for Kids" (SEEK), from 14 sites in 2016, to 31 by 2019; from 3,825 3rd-5th grade African American, Hispanic, and female students in 2015, to cumulatively 27,000 across the nation over the three-year duration of the project. By 2019, a total of 42,000 students will have been impacted by the program since its inception in 2007. The project will advance efforts of the ITEST program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by engaging them in a summer program through hands-on, team-based engineering design projects led by collegiate mentor-teachers. The project will use "A World in Motion"--an engineering curriculum for elementary and middle school children developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers, in addition to other STEM curricula to be incorporated across sites. Participants will experience applied engineering and computer programming learning opportunities, including engineering principles and related mathematics and science concepts and practices through selected activities. While expanding the program, researchers in the partnership will investigate the contextual factors that facilitate or constrain its implementation in order to develop a prototype with a potential to be used in various learning environments. Thus, the overall hypothesis of the work will be that organizational contexts enable, inhibit, and shape the experiences that students have, and consequently influence their outcomes.

The three research questions will be: (1) For each site and across all sites, what is the change in students' STEM-related academic and career identity, conceptual knowledge, and interpersonal and intrapersonal skills?; (2) What is the relationship between students' academic motivation (i.e., empowerment, usefulness, success, interest, caring) and their STEM-related academic and career identity, conceptual knowledge, and interpersonal and intrapersonal skills?; and (3) How do organizational context factors influence students' experiences and outcomes? To address the first question, outcome measures will be administered in a pretest-posttest format to identify changes in students' STEM-related outcomes over the course of the program. To address the second research question, the project will use multilevel modeling to incorporate site-specific contextual variables. To address the third research question, the project will employ a multi-case study approach to investigate variation in available resources and implementation strategies across sites each year. Through multiple data collection methods, the research will capture the influential contextual factors of different sites and their relationship with students' experiences and outcomes. An advisory panel comprising scholars and practitioners in engineering education, engineering outreach programs, and research will provide oversight of the project's progress and an independent mechanism for evaluation. An external evaluator will conduct both formative and summative aspects of the project. The key outcome of the effort will be a research-informed and field-tested model to increase African American, Hispanic, and female students' achievement and engagement in STEM disciplines.


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Principal Investigator(s)
Co-Principal Investigator(s)
Primary Contact


Award Number
1615143, 1614739 & 1614710
Project Duration
2016 - 2019
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, VA
National Society of Black Engineers, VA
Purdue University, IN
Project Work State
District of Columbia
Target Gradespan(s)
Elementary school (K-5)
Project Setting(s)
Informal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Additional Disciplines
Computer Science - general skills and mathematics
Additional Target Participants
Students eligible for Free/reduced price lunch
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino