Project Profile

Increasing Students' Interest in STEM through the Science of Music


To fulfill the country’s industrial and strategic needs, the US education system needs to engage more youth in STEM professional paths. In particular, there is a need to engage low-income and minority students, who are underrepresented in the STEM workforce. A fundamental strategy for engaging students in science and technology is to create educational experiences that connect to the students’ culture and passions. Music is of widespread interest among adolescents, and the connections between music and STEM are vast, in particular, the relationships between musical sound, the physics of waves, and signal processing technology. With the goal of increasing adolescent interest in STEM, the projects’ team has been carrying out outreach activities leveraging those connections, and has created a set of popular web applications for students to analyze and create sound. Participating in an experience including the web applications has been shown to increase students’ interest in STEM and intention to pursue a STEM career. Through this project, the team seeks to formalize these outreach activities into a curriculum that can be implemented independently by teachers. For this, the team will partner with the San Diego County Office of Education to develop a curriculum centered on the web applications and addressing the science standards for 8th grade. Further, the team will offer in-depth professional development to teachers and analyze the impact of the curriculum on teachers and students. Working with teachers and students will help the team improve the curriculum to maximize the students’ engagement. Additional partners include the San Diego Unified School District, Compton Unified School District, and Sweetwater Unified High School District, from where teachers will be recruited, and the Lawrence Hall of Science, which will be collaborating with the team on the research design and analysis. The goal of this project is to increase students’ knowledge of the physics of waves and engagement with science, in particular, the project seeks to 1) develop and iteratively improve curriculum connecting the physics of music with science standards, 2) create a teacher professional development program and mechanisms of support for the curriculum to be successfully implemented by teachers serving low-income and underrepresented students, and 3) investigate the effect of program participation in students and teachers. To achieve these objectives, the team will embark on a design-based research program, analyzing how the activities are being implemented by teachers, collecting data through surveys, focus groups, and observations, and performing statistical analyses. The role of teacher engagement in STEM has received little attention in the literature, in particular how teacher engagement with a STEM subject can be transmitted to student engagement. By using the science of music as an engaging subject for both teachers and students, this project will contribute to a better understanding of how teacher engagement relates to student engagement. On a more general level, this project will contribute to understanding the potential of music integration to foster interest in STEM. The in-depth professional development will reach 80 teachers working in predominantly low-income and underrepresented communities, serving approximately 8000 students per year in a sustainable manner; this program has the potential of making a large impact on the number of underrepresented students pursuing a STEM career. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. 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.



Social Media


Principal Investigator(s)


Award Number
Project Duration
2021 - 2025
University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, CA
Project Work State
Project Status