Leveraging the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Program to Develop a Regional STEM Workforce
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 engaging in hands-on field experience, laboratory/project-based entrepreneurship tasks and mentorship experiences. The Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS), in partnership with STEMWorks, LLC and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), will leverage two existing programs- a local Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and a workforce development organization to increase the interest and competency of grade 9-11 students in pursuing STEM careers. The project's main intervention will be a one-week long summer residential academy where cohorts of students engage in physical conditioning, JROTC activities, site visits, and STEM projects. A major goal of the project is to study the short-term and long-term effects of participation in the JROTC STEM Leadership Academy. Another goal is to formalize a JROTC-centered STEM workforce development summer academy model that can be replicated regionally and across the United States.
The project will study the effects of participation in the JROTC STEM Leadership Academy using Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) as a framework that will be applied to organize and measure the relative effect of different factors on student choice. The project will utilize a mixed methods comparison group design to investigate the effects of strategically situating STEM learning and workforce experiences within a traditional JROTC summer leadership and fitness camp in order to increase the number of high school students in the STEM pipeline. The research includes Brinkerhoff's Success Case Method, sampling a subset of students who chose a STEM trajectory to develop in-depth stories of the student's experiences before, during and after the intervention in order to identify the internal and environmental support that lead to choosing a STEM pathway.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.