TechXcite – Local Youth Discover Engineering

The Issue

Studies of informal science education programs have recommended emphasizing human versus technological aspects of science in curriculum design. Specifically, one study recommends “making STEM fields more attractive…to girls by…promoting science as a human inquiry, involving the hands and the heart as well as the brain, one’s personal interests and tastes––rather than an anonymous application of a universal method” (Froschl, Sprung, Archer, & Fancsali, 2003). Additionally, research indicates that “New teaching and learning models are needed to provide students with the ability to engage in scientific inquiry” (Skelton, Seevers, Dormondy, & Hodnett, 2012). For both genders, hands-on experiences such as using tools and equipment have been found to enhance interest in science (Hansen, Walker, & Flom, 1995) and are related to higher math and science achievement (Campbell, Jolly, Hoey, & Perlman, 2002). Girls, in particular, were six times more likely to consider engineering as a career following hands-on engineering activities (Campbell & Shackford, 1990).

What Has ANR Done?

Collaborating with National 4-H Council and the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke, the 4-H Youth Development program in San Benito, Monterey, and Santa Cruz counties provided professional development workshops, curriculum supplies, and technical support to deliver TechXcite curriculum modules in 4-H Community Club and afterschool programs. The TechXcite curriculum attracts boys, girls, rural, and urban students in afterschool programs to STEM fields and careers through engaging, substantive, and applicable, hands-on lessons. Ten sites reached over 160 youth with engineering curriculum focusing on prosthetic arms, infrared remote controls, solar-powered cars, harvesting rainwater, and imaging of biological systems during a nine-month period.

The Payoff

Curriculum engaged all students and improved competence in science and engineering

Evaluation results generated by Compass Research and Evaluation indicated that 98% of instructors believe that students learned and demonstrated improved competence in science and engineering. Results also indicated that the modules are applicable to real-world situations (96%) and provided real-world examples and uses of technology (85%). With respect to gender differences, instructors very much or completely agreed that both male students (87%) and female students (72%) were engaged with TechXcite. Most instructors very much or completely agreed that after participating in TechXcite students showed improved attitudes toward science and engineering (65%), and increased initiative to explore science and engineering topics (64%).

Clientele Testimonial

TechXcite was a wonderful program which brought opportunities for our youth to get hands-on discovery-based learning experiences. The youth got excited every week when it was TechXcite time; therefore, they were very engaged in the materials and activities provided. We will continue to use TechXcite as our youth really enjoyed the program.


Supporting Unit:

San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz counties
Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty
County Director: San Benito County
Science Literacy Youth Development Advisor: Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties

UCCE San Benito County
3228 Southside Road
Hollister, CA 95023
831-637-5346 x 12
831-637-7111 (fax)