Sparking Teens’ Interest in Emergency Response Technology through Teen Science Cafés
Natural disasters are increasing at a rapid rate, with the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters reporting that climate-related disasters occurred more than twice as frequently, on average, from 2000 to 2015 in comparison to the 1980s. Disaster education, on the other hand, is sparse and unsystematic. The goal of our work was to develop brief and impactful educational interventions, accessible to teens throughout the country, and that focused on using technology to confront natural disasters. We did this through the Teen Science Café Network, a group that sponsors out-of-school events led by youth, featuring hands-on activities and community STEM practitioners who described their work and career pathways. The program was implemented in 19 sites nationwide, with 502 youth. Themes of these cafés included flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires. A project-designed survey established much-needed baseline data, showing that youth have limited knowledge about how technology can mitigate disasters (an average score of 4.2 correct answers on a 10-item multiple-choice test). We discuss the interest-shaping and lifesaving potential of community STEM interventions that address how rapidly emerging technologies are used to prevent and respond to natural disasters.