Impact of the you're hired! Program on student attitudes and understanding of engineering (RTP, Strand 4)
To meet the growing need for qualified employees in STEM-based careers, it is critical that middle and high school students participate in activities that increase their awareness of opportunities in these areas. With proper design, these activities can not only increase awareness of STEM-based careers, but can also help overcome current stereotypes and lead to a change in attitudes towards these careers. Researchers at North Dakota State College of Science, along with the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, have developed 'You're Hired!', a program that provides middle and high school students a hands-on, authentic experience in various engineering roles while assessing changes in student attitudes towards the engineering profession. 'You're Hired!' is a series of three STEM-based activities, given over the course of a school year, that requires students to work as a 'company' for an entire school day to find a solution to a relevant, present-day problem. The activities are structured so that students use the engineering design process and practice 21st Century Skills, such as collaboration, critical thinking and time management, while developing, testing, and marketing a solution. At the end of each activity, the students communicate their solution to a community-led boardroom, comprised of school board members, community stakeholders and local industry representatives. The program also tracks student progress throughout the year using peer- and self-assessments. This research project used quantitative data collection methods to measure the impact of the 'You're Hired!' program on changing students' attitudes towards engineering. The methodology includes a statistical comparison of a control group to an experimental group to clearly demonstrate the benefit of the program. The results of the statistical analysis show there is a significant difference in the change in student attitudes toward engineering when participating in the program.