Project Profile

Community-Engaged Engineering Interventions with Appalachian Youth


This project will advance efforts of the innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by producing empirical findings and/or research tools that contribute to knowledge about which models and interventions with K-12 students and teachers are most likely to increase capacity in the STEM and STEM-cognate intensive workforce of the future. This project is focused on a collaborative design, implementation, and study of recurrent engineering-focused interventions with middle school youth in three rural and Appalachian communities. The intervention efforts will broaden middle schoolers' participation and understanding of what engineering is, what engineers do, and help dispel the notion that it is hard and requires a love of mathematics and science. The project has the potential for recruiting future engineers who are unaware of their abilities and career possibilities because of the rural Appalachian communities in which they live. Broadening participation in engineering remains a critical national priority and this project has the potential to prevent the loss of smart capable students from engineering education and career pathways. The proposed partnership with school educators and industry experts will established an open-source engineering outreach curriculum (iFixit) and facilitate regular in-class interventions throughout the academic year.

The study design enables the examination of the participants and interventions across time and case-site contexts, where the data are collected at individual-level to look for changes over time while within-case and cross-case examination of the community-level impacts will be analyzed. The objective will be to achieve meaningful results of the two goals: Goal 1- to increase youth awareness of, interest in, and readiness for diverse engineering related careers and educational pathways which is a goal that hinges on a collaboratively designed and facilitated set of monthly interventions in a curricular setting and Goal 2- to build capacity for schools to sustainably integrate engineering skills and knowledge of diverse engineering-related careers and educational pathways aimed at both the individual-level with a focus on teachers as influential change makers as well as at the community-level focused on sustainable cross-sector collaborations. The project will offer in-school curriculum activities (interventions) six times per academic year in three similar rural communities in Virginia: 1) Bedford County Public Schools 2) Giles County Public Schools, and 3) Smyth County Public Schools. All case sites are located in rural areas or near Appalachia where there is limited industry, particularly advanced industry exposes students, parents, and educators to engineering careers. Leveraging local expertise is especially critical in this project because family pressures, cultural milieu, and preference for local, stable jobs play considerable roles in how Appalachian youth choose possible careers.


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Award Number
Project Duration
2017 - 2022
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, VA
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
Middle school (6-8)
Project Setting(s)
Formal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Additional Disciplines
Engineering - general
Additional Target Participants
STEM Professionals