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Icon for: LaTricia Townsend


North Carolina State University

Developing STEM Identity in Rural Audiences through Community-based Engineeri...

NSF Awards: 1949454

2021 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

This video chronicles the implementation of a new NSF Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) project designed to offer community-based engineering design experiences for underserved middle school students (grades 6-8) from rural NC. Through a series of three courses, students will engage in authentic engineering design experiences tailored to highlight their local community’s industry that allow them to research, design, and problem-solve in a simulated advanced manufacturing environment. Currently, the first course is being deployed with sixth grade students. A major hallmark of the project is meaningful, ongoing collaboration among individuals from a college of engineering, a research institute, a pre-college STEM program, a rural school district, and local advanced manufacturing industry.. The project aims to improve students’ cognitive (STEM content knowledge and career awareness) and non-cognitive (interest, self-efficacy, and STEM identity) outcomes and ultimately lead to their increased participation in STEM fields, particularly engineering. 


Obstacles have been abundant during this project. Shortly after being funded, progress was halted due to an unprecedented global health crisis. The school district was closed for several weeks as administrators and teachers prepared to transition to remote learning. In addition, the district experienced unexpected teacher and administrator turnover.  In the wake of such uncertainty, all partners have pivoted multiple times along the implementation path to ensure the project endures and thrives.

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Discussion from the 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase (5 posts)
  • Icon for: Michael Briscoe

    Michael Briscoe

    Informal Educator
    May 11, 2021 | 10:56 a.m.

    Tying real-world, local opportunities to STEM learning is a great motivating force that we use in our work as well. The research into transforming STEM identity is always fascinating and I definitely look forward to following your program's research and growth. Our national association has similar goals, and if you ever find a need for an extra unit or have students interested in naval applications of the design processes in your courses, please reach out (fleet@navalengineers.org). We love what you are doing to support these students!

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Kimberly Elliott
    LaTricia Townsend
  • Icon for: LaTricia Townsend

    LaTricia Townsend

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2021 | 10:18 a.m.

    Thank you for viewing our presentation. We will work to learn more about your association and potential connections. We will definitely reach out to you to discuss further. Thank you!

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Kimberly Elliott
  • Icon for: Karen Mutch-Jones

    Karen Mutch-Jones

    Senior Researcher
    May 12, 2021 | 11:26 a.m.

    The goals and features of Project Desire will offer much to students--in particular, mentoring will be essential to provide support along the way, especially when students face challenges. Great partnerships and career exploration opportunities too! In my prior work, I found that it can be hard to recruit some middle school students into STEM programs (even ones that include exciting new opportunities like yours) because they don't see themselves as "good at" science or math.  I am guessing that these are the very students that you wish to attract--what strategies will you use to encourage them to take the elective courses, especially those who are the most hesitant?  Also, at this early stage, I am curious about what you hope to see early on, that would suggest students are shifting their thinking/feelings about STEM and/or themselves?  I know the actual measurement will come later as the project progresses.

    Best wishes for this new and important project!

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Kimberly Elliott
  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    May 12, 2021 | 01:49 p.m.

    Hi, I'm curious:  How do the modules designed in collaboration with industry map onto the NGSS 3-D agenda for middle school?  For example, do they tend to focus on cross-cutting concepts, on practices, or on disciplinary core ideas?  

      And how are you defining "STEM Identity"?  I agree that MS is a strategic time to address this!

  • Icon for: Eric Pyle

    Eric Pyle

    May 13, 2021 | 10:05 a.m.

    Thank you for what promises to be not only a challenging project, but one with great impact across North Carolina.  Having worked with the MSEN pre-college programs earlier in my career, it is good to see that it is still alive and well.  I am curious as to how many potential first-generation college students may be reached through this program, and what anticipated supports or hand-offs might be needed to see them be successful in college?  I am looking forward to more results from this program in the not-to-distant future.

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.