Project Profile

Case Study of Experiential, Capstones in Industry: Understanding High School Students Interest and Preparation for STEM Careers


The aim of this project will be to help school students, particularly under-represented minorities and females, to access careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  The strategy will be to study a demonstrated successful learning model that integrates traditional high school STEM curriculum with real world projects from the STEM business community. The study will illuminate how the components of the program work together to support students' motivation and preparation for STEM careers, in particular female and minority students. The findings of the study will make it possible to implement the program in similar contexts across the nation. A better understanding of experiential learning within a public school district context can potentially impact tens of thousands of students.

The goal of this project is to conduct an exploratory case study of Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies (BVCAPS) which is the founding location of the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) network. CAPS will provide programming that includes STEM capstone experiences (in medicine, bioscience, technology, or engineering) for public school high school juniors and seniors. Guided by the theoretical and conceptual constructs of social cognitive career theory and high-quality project-based learning, this study will seek to answer the following research questions: 1) How does the CAPS model support students' motivation and preparation for STEM careers? 2) What aspects of the BVCAPS model contribute to increased female and under-represented minority student motivation and preparation for STEM careers? The qualitative exploration will be used to create a set of validated and reliable instruments that can be used to study this and similar programs more broadly as they relate to motivation and preparation for STEM careers. This study will build on the literature in high school STEM education in the area of project-based learning and capstone experiences in high school and add to the developing literature on high school STEM experiential learning. Measurement tools created by this study will enable examination of the capstone model in programs within the network of schools (over 10,000 students in more than 80 school districts within 13 states across the US) and more broadly. In addition to the potential impact of the measurement tools themselves, the findings of this study will address how other STEM educators can support the motivation and preparation for students in STEM careers, in particular female and minorities. Information gleaned in this area will help advance high school STEM reform and preparation for post-secondary careers and learning opportunities.

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.


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Award Number
Project Duration
2019 - 2022
Northeastern University, .
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
High school (9-12)
Project Setting(s)
Formal Education
Informal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Computer and informational technology science
Environmental sciences
Life sciences
Target Participants
Youth / students