Project Profile

Developing STEM Identity in Rural Audiences through Community-based Engineering Design


This project will develop and study an innovative community-based engineering education model to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) knowledge, identity, and career awareness of rural, economically disadvantaged students. The project leverages strategic partnerships between North Carolina State University, Edgecombe School District, and local industry to create an Engineering Design and Exploration course. The course will engage middle school students (grades 6 to 8) in authentic engineering design experiences built around advanced manufacturing technologies and processes utilized by local manufacturing facilities. In the course, students will research, design, and build advanced manufacturing systems that simulate actual industrial manufacturing processes. Students will be supported by mentoring from undergraduate engineering students from underrepresented groups and by STEM industry professionals at North Carolina State University and by STEM industry professionals. This project will help prepare economically disadvantaged middle school youth to more fully participate in STEM and career pathways by providing technology-rich, hands-on STEM experiences in real-world contexts. These experiences will also prepare students to research, design, and solve problems in STEM contexts.

The research will examine how an engineering-focused community-based instructional model can help develop rural students' interest in STEM. The team will use a quasi-experimental mixed-methods embedded design to answer three research questions. 1) How and to what degree does the engineering design-focused program impact students' disciplinary-based knowledge and practices in STEM and career awareness? 2) How and to what degree does the engineering design-focused program impact students' STEM interests, STEM identity, and STEM self-efficacy? 3) How and to what degree does the program impact teacher content and pedagogical knowledge and awareness of STEM educational pathways and occupations? Research data to be collected include student interviews, surveys, and artifacts created by students during the course. Changes in students' content knowledge and career awareness will be measured through state-wide science test scores, pre to post-surveys on STEM knowledge and skills, and on a pre to post career awareness surveys. Interest in STEM, STEM identity, and STEM self-efficacy will be determined through student artifacts, observations, and focus groups. The team will also examine teacher STEM knowledge, pedagogy, and STEM career awareness through pre to post surveys and focus groups. Project evaluation will examine the overall achievement of program goals and objectives. Project results will be disseminated widely at national conferences, through submissions to refereed journals, and on Edgecombe County public schools websites.


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Award Number
Project Duration
2020 - 2024
Developing and Testing Innovations (DTI)
North Carolina State University, NC
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
Middle school (6-8)
Project Setting(s)
Formal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Life sciences
Mathematical sciences
Physics and astronomy
Target Participants
American Indian/Alaska Native participants
Black/African American participants
Hispanic/Latino participants
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander participants
Thematic Group
STEM Learning and Learning Environments