NSF INCLUDES: A Networked Improvement Community for Broadening the Participation of Black and Latino Youth in Computational Careers
Designing for Diversity will establish a national Networked Improvement Community (NIC) of maker spaces and fab labs serving Black and Latino high school students and specializing in computational making programs. The project will be led by the New York Hall of Science, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and a national leadership team representing universities, cultural organizations, corporations, foundations and leaders in the Maker Movement. Using a NIC methodology, the partners will identify the most promising mechanisms for ensuring that participation in computational making programs has a significant impact on participants' choices to pursue STEM focused internships, post-secondary education, and career paths. The project will extend the NIC methodology into the informal learning community, which is in need of research methods that are both rigorous and accommodating of the institutional complexities of building and sustaining high-quality informal learning environments, and it will contribute to the literature on the impact of maker spaces and fab labs in underserved communities on the diversification of the STEM pipeline. The project will also pave the way for the development of a more fully-developed network of computational making programs across the country and a more comprehensive research initiative that will influence best practices in maker spaces and fab labs and foster perceptions of the value and impact of maker experiences on young people's readiness for future educational experiences and careers.
The project builds on research indicating that computational making - programs that combine the making of artifacts with computational tools and techniques - is a powerful strategy for engaging underrepresented students in STEM learning. However, participation in such programs will not necessarily lead students to take concrete steps toward computationally-rich STEM careers in which they are currently under-represented. A range of research suggests that computational making programs need to explicitly design for and address the socio-emotional dimensions of these learning experiences in order for them to become stepping stones into these careers. Designing for Diversity will work with a network of maker programs serving high needs Black and Latino high school students to address these learning factors. During this pilot, the leadership team will accomplish three tasks: (1) establish a common framework, shared measurement objectives and guidelines that will be used to identify, recruit and support participant maker programs and their local partners; (2) develop and coordinate the NIC's capacity for scaling and disseminating its work by connecting the research efforts to broader national initiatives; and (3) recruit, train, and collect baseline data on the Designing for Diversity NIC.