Engaging upper elementary students in activities aimed to increase female inclusion in STEM

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Schonning, Alexandra
Perez, Susan

Schonning, A., Perez, S. (2020). Engaging upper elementary students in activities aimed to increase female inclusion in STEM. Proceedings of the 2020 IEMS Conference, 26, 114-121.


This paper discusses efforts by the Center for the Advancement of Women in Engineering (CAWE) at the University of North Florida (UNF) to increase the inclusion in STEM by engaging 3rd through 5th grade students in outreach activities in the form of field trips. The UNF-CAWE field trips are designed to educate and inspire students in 3rd through 5th grade about engineering using a hands-on approach. The learning materials were designed to be inclusive to a diverse population. The materials included a conversational presentation of what engineering is and how it has helped shape the world we live in today and how engineering is needed to solve some of the biggest challenges our society is facing. The presentation was followed by engineering activities during which the students learned basics of programming a robot and building a hydraulic system capable of lifting heavy weights. The presentation and activities were designed by engineering students and faculty in the engineering and psychology programs and were delivered by engineering, computing, and psychology students with the oversight of the directors of CAWE. A total of six field trips were conducted. Three of the field trips received an additional presentation on unconscious gender biases. For all the six field trips, children with parental consent, participated in an Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved research study to determine if their interest in pursuing a STEM career was affected by the unconscious gender bias discussion. Results from the pilot study reveal that children benefit from participating in outreach activities which provide exposure to engineering, hands-on activities, role models, discussions on how engineering makes the world better, and discussions of unconscious gender biases.

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Published in SOAR: Shocker Open Access Repository by Wichita State University Libraries Technical Services, December 2022.
The IEMS'20 conference committee: Wichita State University, College of Engineering (Sponsor); Gamal Weheba (Conference Chair); Hesham Mahgoub (Program Chair); Dalia Mahgoub (Technical Director); Ron Barrett-Gonzalez (Publications Editor)