African American and Latinx youth are often socialized towards athletic activity and sports participation, sometimes at the expense of their exploration of the range of potential career paths including those in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This project will immerse middle school youth in the rapidly growing world of sports data analytics and build their knowledge of statistics concepts and the data science process. The project will focus on the STEM interests and knowledge development of African American and Latinx youth, an underrepresented and underserved group in STEM. Researchers will explore the ways youths' social identities can and should serve as bridges towards future productive academic and professional identities including those associated with STEM learning and the STEM professions. The outcomes of the project will advance knowledge in promoting elements of informal learning experiences that build adolescents' motivation and persistence for productive participation in STEM courses and careers. This project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning program (AISL), which seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning opportunities for the public in informal environments, and the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers program (ITEST), which funds projects that leverage innovative uses of technologies to prepare diverse youth for the STEM workforce, with a focus on broadening participation among underrepresented and underserved groups in STEM fields.
Over a three-year period, 250 middle school learners in the West Baltimore, Maryland and Hyattsville, Maryland areas will engage in three main learning activities: Summer Camp (three weeks), Sports Day Saturdays, and a Spring Summit. Through a partnership between the University of Maryland and Coppin State University, the project will utilize resources in multiple departments and units across both universities, and engage with youth sports leagues such as the American Athletic Union (AAU) to support participants' engagement in the data science process including collection of raw data, exploration of data, development of models, visualization, communication, and reporting of data, and data-driven decision making. Furthermore, youth participants will attend local AAU, college, and professional sporting events, and interact with members of coaching staffs to better understand the ways performance data technologies are utilized to inform recruitment and team performance. The mixed-methods research agenda for this project is guided by three main questions: (1) What elements of the project's model are most successful at supporting congruence of adolescents' academic identity, including STEM identity and social identity including athletic identity? (2) What elements support adolescents' motivation, and persistence for productive participation in current and future STEM courses? (3) To what extent did the project appear to influence participants' perceptions of their future professions? At multiple points throughout the experience, participants will complete surveys designed to document and assess statistics and data science knowledge; interest in STEM careers; academic, social and athletic identity development; and STEM course taking patterns. Researchers will also observe project activities, interview a focal group of participants, and survey participants' parents to identify elements of learning experiences that encourage and support adolescents' interest in STEM disciplines and STEM professions. The project team will develop conceptual and pedagogical frameworks that support middle school youth' engagement and interest in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics through repurposing spaces where these youths frequent. A major outcome of the project will be workforce preparation and offers a promising approach for encouraging youth to persist along STEM pathways, which may ultimately result in broadened participation in STEM workforces.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.