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129th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Excellence Through Diversity, ASEE 2022 ; 2022.
Article in English | Scopus | ID: covidwho-2046761


Science kits have been a staple of learning for some time, but in the era of COVID-19 at-home science kits took specific prominence in educational initiatives. In this paper, we delineate how kit-based education can be paired with virtual connection technology to enhance postsecondary and career exploration. The “Content, Connection and Careers” kit-based program has been developed to enable youth to explore electrical engineering principles while connecting virtually with university students to discuss engineering courses and careers. When assembled and wired up, the kit components become linear motors that use a magnetic force to pull a bolt into a pipe when youth press a button. This follows the same working principles as a doorbell or solenoid. These kits are supported by virtual learning sessions where youth connect with university students and faculty to fully understand the educational content, connect to peers and caring adults to share their learning, and explore careers that use electrical engineering skills. To investigate the effectiveness of the program, surveys were distributed to participants to understand whether the kits were simple enough for independent learning but robust enough to encourage additional self-exploration of more difficult topics with the aid of expert scientists and other adult role models. Additionally, youth were asked if the connections made with university faculty and students was beneficial in their thinking of postsecondary options and college engagement. Over 60 elementary and middle-school aged youth participated in the project. Over 80 percent of survey respondents self-reported improved knowledge of how an electromagnetic field works and how to build a simple electromagnet. Other results showed an increased understanding of engineering careers and courses required to study electric engineering in college. Before their experience in the project, very few of the young people had ever talked to university faculty or university students about their areas of research or their journey into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This connection was described in the surveys as what the youth liked best about the project. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2022.

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 ; 2021.
Article in English | Scopus | ID: covidwho-1696166


Purpose: The purpose of the Sustainable Bridges from Campus to Campus project (NSF IUSE #1525367, known locally as Engineering Ahead) is to establish summer bridge programs that serve Engineering students at regional campuses of The Pennsylvania State University. In 2016, residential summer bridge programs for incoming Engineering students were started at the Abington, Altoona, and Berks campuses patterned after a successful long-standing bridge program at the Penn State University Park campus. Recruitment focuses on enrolling racially underrepresented domestic students (i.e., African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Pacific Islander), women, and first-generation students in Engineering into the bridge programs. The project also supports an established summer bridge program for racially underrepresented incoming Engineering students at the flagship University Park campus. In 2020 (Year 5 of the project) because of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on in-person gathering, the Engineering Ahead residential bridge programs were converted to online synchronous summer bridge programs. This paper presents data on recruitment, enrollment, retention, and students' perceptions of belonging and mattering over time. Goals: The overarching goal of this project is to increase retention and graduation among racially underrepresented Engineering students, with a focus on students who start their Penn State education at a regional campus. Since their inception, the Engineering Ahead summer bridge programs try to increase retention and graduation through three strategies: intensive math review (pre-calculus, calculus), community building, and professional development. Central topics and questions for this paper are how we conducted online bridges, what was offered, student enrollment and retention, what we learned from the process, can social integration among students be achieved virtually, and what were student perceptions of the online bridge experience? Method: Accepted incoming Engineering students (summer and fall 2020) at the Abington, Altoona, Berks, and University Park campuses were encouraged to apply via letter, email, and presentations at accepted student programs to an online summer bridge program to support success in math and science during the first year. Eighty-six incoming students enrolled in the four online bridge programs for incoming first-year Engineering students. Results: We reliably assessed students' sense of belonging and perceived college mattering using standardized measures. Repeated measures analyses showed that there was a significant increase over the 4-week bridge programs of students' sense of belonging and perceived mattering. Conclusions: An important component of summer bridge programs is fostering a sense of community and interpersonal bonds among the students. Results showed that students enrolled in online bridge programs reported significant increases in their sense of belonging and perceived college mattering over four weeks. It appears we captured some of the benefits of summer bridge programs even though they were not residential. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2021