INTEGRATING SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS (STEM) INTO THE HOME ENVIRONMENT

Research

The objective of our research is to develop, implement, and refine a program for integrating engineering design practices with an emphasis on emerging technologies (i.e., making, DIY electronics) into home environments of families from under-resourced communities.

Aim 1: Investigate features of the program that best support participation and implementation of engineering design practices among caregivers and youth in their homes.

Our research highlights the following:

  • One key feature is to simplify the complexity of the self-identified problem. Purposeful guidance (e.g., questions) and intentional thinking (e.g., child prior experiences) of caregivers and engineers supported the child in developing a problem that was achievable.
  • The introduction of and/or access to materials and resources serve to shape caregiver’s roles (e.g., lead engineer, outsider). This has implications for when materials and resources are introduced within the engineering design process, as well as language of how the materials and resources are to be used between caregiver-child.

Aim 2: Investigate changes in each youth’s identity as an engineer through engaging in engineering design practices with caregivers in their home.

  • Youth are positioned differently as engineers throughout the design process. For example, Walt was positioned as the “big idea person” in February when they were brainstorming and generating solutions; a researcher of materials (e.g., sensor) for a prototype and the “expert” of the project in March; and an observer of the prototype in May.
  • Youth are able to position themselves as engineers through leveraging different resources such as sketches/drawing, notes, and tools and materials (e.g., exacto knife, measuring tape).
  • Youth express an interest in the engineering design process and learning more about the field. While their competence in engineering was limited, they were able to describe their “doing” of engineering throughout the project. Their competence as engineers seemed to be held to some gold standard of “good,” and shaped their future self as engineers.
  • Youth often self-recognize themselves as a particular type of engineer based on their interest as developed and/or maintained as part of the program (e.g., circuitry -> electrical engineer).
  • Caregivers perceive their child(ren) as developing an identity as an engineer particularly in how they enact the processes of and model the thinking and perseverance of engineers, in their increased interest and excitement in engineering, as well as the development of an inquisitive mindset regarding things and objects in their surroundings.

Aim 3: Examine shifts in caregivers’: (a) views of engineering, (b) ways to support their child in engineering design practices, and (c) beliefs that engineering is a viable option for their child to consider as a degree and career.

We are learning the following:

  • Caregivers are gaining a new perspective of engineering and a new level of respect for engineers by participating in this program.
  • Caregivers articulate how the program has shifted their interactions with their child(ren) – being more detailed and understandable when explaining how things work, providing space and opportunities to learn through trial and error, reconsidering the types of questions asked, and asking their child(ren) for help when repairing something.
  • A few caregivers expressed engineering as a career field they can see their child pursuing, which prior to the program, was not a career field they considered.
  • We observed 12 roles that caregivers “played” to support their child throughout the engineering design process. There was not a clear pattern in how these roles differed across the design stages, highlighting the dynamic, complex, and evolving nature of roles through social interactions.
  • We are also learning more about the various ways caregivers are engaging in and influencing child learning and engagement at different stages of the engineering design cycle. In particular, through conversation and context/environmental influences, we are seeing parents engage as educators/practitioners in unique ways particularly within the early stages of the design process – problem identification and solution ideation.

Additional Analyses: As curious researchers, we have explored other interests as well.

Insights from our additional analyses have illuminated the following:

  • Caregivers are able to engage and support their child(ren) in spontaneous mathematical moments within the engineering design process. This has been observed through discussing mathematical concepts and participating in mathematical practices that bridge formal and informal ways of thinking and doing mathematics, encouraging the use of objects, tools, and materials, and posing questions that promote mathematical thinking.
  • Caregivers support their child(ren)’s foundational understanding of STEM concepts and skills as identified within three types of STEM moments: (a) teachable moments, (b) building-up moments, and (c) synthesizing moments.
  • By examining the nature of joint activity between children and caregivers in an informal learning environment like the home, we are gaining a better understanding of how certain practices and familial experience might be leveraged to foster interest and engagement with engineering principles at younger ages.

References to Publications:

Kim, J., Kim, S. H. (2021). Motives, conflicts and mediation in home engineering design challenges as family pedagogical practices. Proceedings of the 128th meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37519

Kim, S. H., & Kim, J. (In press). Caregivers’ role-taking during the use of discussion prompts in at-home engineering kits. In 2021 International Society of the Learning Sciences annual meeting. Bochum, Germany.

Kim, J., & Simpson, A. (2021). STEM moments in the family context throughout engineering design challenge activities. Proceedings of the 128th meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37726

Simpson, A., Kim, J., & Yang, J. (2021). Caregiver-child interactions: Informal ways of doing mathematics during engineering tasks. In D. Olanoff, K. Johnson, & S. Spitzer, (Eds.), Proceedings of the 43rd annual meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (pp. 807-811). Philadelphia, PA: PME-NA.

Simpson, A., Maltese, A. V., Yang, J., Kim, J., Knox, P. N., Kim, S. H., & Farfan D’Souza, N. (2021). Insights from engineering a community-family partnership project. Proceedings of the 128th meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37344

Simpson, A., Yang, J., Knox, P. N., & Maltese, A. V. (2021). Caregivers’ multiple roles in supporting their child through an engineering design project. Proceedings of the 128th meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/36786

Simpson, A., & Zhong, Q. (2020). Spontaneous mathematical moments between caregiver and child during an engineering design project. In Sacristán, A. I., Cortés-Zavala, J. C. & Ruiz-Arias, P. M. (Eds.). Mathematics Education Across Cultures: Proceedings of the 42nd Meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (pp. 1424-1428). Mexico: PME-NA.

Simpson, A., Zhong, Q., & Maltese, A. (In press). Spontaneous mathematical moments between caregiver and child during an engineering design project. Early Childhood Education Journal. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-021-01296-w