This event aims to increase interest in degrees related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) among New York City high school students of color by demonstrating the near universal application of STEM skills within the hackathon format, a model optimized for peer learning, participation, and achievement. Spanning two days, this event will ask attendees to form teams, and compete against each other in a bid to provide the best technical solution for solving the social, and economic issues surrounding disparities in STEM.
According to a report released in 2012 by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), less than 40% of the students who enter college with the intention of majoring in a STEM field complete a STEM degree, with women and minority groups underrepresented in STEM leaving at the greatest rates. Research attributes this mass exodus in part to the traditional teaching models employed by classrooms across the nation that refuses students the opportunity to take an active role in their education. A Hackathon allows students to interact with STEM inside an environment that capitalizes on its innovative nature by asking students to create, discover, and solve problems.
A key in maintaining student motivation is having role models. The majority of U.S. STEM faculty are white, male, able-bodied, and middle class. Role models who are women and ethnic minorities increase the performance and retention of students in those same groups. A lack of peers from similar backgrounds can also erode self-confidence and the will to remain in STEM majors.
In what ways can technology work to address and alleviate the consequences on motivation that these disparities have caused?
Compared with students in traditional lectures, students who play an active role in the pursuit of scientific knowledge learn more and develop more confidence in their abilities, thereby increasing their persistence in STEM majors. Students in traditional lecture courses were twice as likely to leave engineering and three times as likely to drop out of college entirely compared with students taught using techniques that engaged them actively in class.
What kind of solution might best facilitate the transformation from traditional lectures to alternative teaching methods?
Many students, and particularly members of groups underrepresented in STEM fields, cite an unwelcoming atmosphere from faculty in STEM courses as a reason for their departure. Research suggests that identification with a group or community of STEM professionals may be the greatest factor in increasing persistence. Developing meaningful relationships with peers and instructors, and involvement in study groups, have seen to reduced departures from STEM fields among women and minority groups.
What technical solutions may work to foster an atmosphere based in community, and inclusion?