Project Profile

Fostering STEM identify development through localized engineering for LGBTQ+ youth displaced by housing insecurity


The project will develop and research a model for engaging LGBTQ+ youth experiencing housing insecurity in an engineering education program. This research program explicitly broadens engineering and STEM participation through a three-year Design-Based Research study. The team will collaboratively tailor their existing “Localized Engineering in Displacement (LED)” curriculum to and with LGBTQ+ runaway/homeless youth at a residential center in Indianapolis. The LED curriculum uses Active, Blended, Collaborative, and Democratic pedagogy to support learners in identifying a technical problem they see around them, studying relevant STEM principles, and coming up with a solution they can use. The educational technology kit (EngStarter) provides adaptable tools for learners to use. The team will integrate practice and research and study the development of youth identities, learning experiences, and technology engagement. Enabling LGBTQ+ runaway/homeless youth will have large individual and social impacts, expanding opportunities for this specific population to choose STEM pathways, become self-reliant individuals, translate their assets and potential into community development, and in turn support more youth in the future.

LGBTQ+ runaway/homeless youth are often characterized as an exceptionally vulnerable population with the intersectionality of sexual orientation and gender, as well as race/ethnicity and class, and research has overemphasized the deficits of these young people. This project, therefore, uses an asset orientation in its theoretical and methodological stance. Through a three-year Design-Based Research (DBR) study, the project team will collaboratively design and contextualize a localized engineering program consisting of a curriculum (“Localized Engineering in Displacement”), a pedagogy (“Active, Blended, Collaborative, and Democratic” learning), and a technology (“EngStarter,” a versatile educational lab kit). Students are asked to identify, scope, and iteratively generate and test solutions to a problem around them (“localized”), proceeding through the tailored LED curriculum to learn relevant skills and lead decision-making. The team will collaborate with Trinity Haven Transitional Home for LGBTQ+ Youth in Indianapolis and co-design the localized engineering program, the technology tools appropriate for the context, and the research. The research team will use DBR, given its unique nature, to link practice and research to foster collaborative participation throughout the program cycle. The project will address questions regarding (1) identity negotiation, construction and resolution experience and strategies: (1) (a). What identities do LGBTQ+ Youth experiencing housing insecurity negotiate and resolve by participating in a localized engineering in displacement program? (b) What strategies are employed by youth in negotiating and constructing an engineering identity? (c). What are the identities developed by teachers engaging in the program? (2) Unique LGBTQ+ runaway/homeless youth experiences and construction of multiple STEM pathways: (2) (a) What are the experiences of youth participating in a localized engineering in displacement educational program addressing community issues? (b) In what ways does the program inform and augment choices of STEM workforce pathways for youth? (c) What are the interactions and experiences of a local teacher embedded with youth? (3) technology’s role and expertise of youth: (3) (a) What are the roles and realized affordances of the EngStarter technology in the negotiation of engineering identity? (b) What are design modifications youth make to contextualize educational technology for their needs? (c) What is the process by which teachers develop ICT self-efficacy with EngStarter? The research will use quantitative and qualitative research methods to iteratively develop the program model. The 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.



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Principal Investigator(s)


Award Number
Project Duration
2022 - 2025
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Project Work State
Project Status