An online quest to recruit Latino youth for STEM careers

Motivating Bilingual Hispanic Youth Towards STEM and STEM Cognate Study and Careers (MIO STEM)

Principal investigator:
Award amount:
$1,199,011
Originating sponsor:
National Science Foundation
Grant start date:
July 1, 2015
Grant end date:
July 30, 2017

The challenge:

Latinos make up the youngest and fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. but remain underrepresented in STEM professions — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. According to the National Council of La Raza, while Latinos make up nearly 20 percent of the American workforce, they account for less than 10 percent of workers in STEM-related fields. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Education reports that while Latinos accounted for 16 percent of the U.S. population in 2010, they earned only 8 percent of all certificates and degrees awarded in STEM fields between 2009 and 2010.

Latino students who may be entirely capable of STEM careers often lack familiarity with the career paths STEM makes available to them, and the college resources that would make a STEM career possible. They may also be unaware of Latino STEM role models.

This project seeks to create STEM college and career pathways for Latino youth.

The approach:

The project chose a family-oriented strategy to reaching first-generation college students. The family unit was considered because of the importance placed on it within Latino culture, and its role in deciding futures. In this way, the project informs entire families simultaneously about the opportunities and resources available.

The centerpiece of the program is STEM Mio (“My STEM”), a game-infused platform created by the Center for Games and Impact at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to enable Latino middle- and high-school students to explore STEM careers and college pathways. Students play the game in cohorts, either with a teacher/facilitator or in online groups, engaging in project-based Quests, Missions and Challenges. These are the components of an overarching journey allowing students to uncover their passions and match them to potential STEM careers, explore those careers through games and makerspaces, identify potential college matches and take virtual campus tours, strengthen their college applications and secure financial aid.

Partners in the project include VME Spanish public television, which is is funded to create an accompanying STEM careers series for Hispanic families to watch together; and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, which will provide trips and tours of campuses for Hispanic families.

Findings and impact:

This project is ongoing through June 30, 2017.