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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  3. This Work in Progress (WIP) paper describes the development of a middle school program focused on an integrated STEM architectural engineering design project and exploration of career pathways. The current engineering workforce is increasingly aging, needing new engineering graduates to meet the industry demands. It is crucial to create inclusive educational programs in STEM to expose and connect with youths from diverse backgrounds, especially the demographics that are underrepresented, in STEM career paths. Middle school is a pivotal time for generating students’ awareness of and promoting pathways into STEM careers; however, opportunities to engage in engineering are often lacking or nonexistent, particularly for low-income students. Additionally, low-income students may bring particular experiences and skills from their backgrounds to engineering that may increase the innovation of engineering solutions. These assets are important to recognize and cultivate in young students. The Middle School Architectural Engineering Pilot Program (MSAEPP), drawing from social cognitive career theory and identity-based motivation, is an intervention designed to affect STEM related content and STEM identities, motivation, and career goals for low-income students using relatable topics within the building industry. The focus on architectural engineering activities is because buildings, and the industry they represent, touch everyone’s lives. The MSAEPP is planned to be implemented through the Talent Search Programs at middle schools in Pennsylvania. The Talent Search Program is one of the Federal TRIO Programs dedicated to assisting high school students in furthering their education. Penn State Talent Search Programs serve 22 schools in 8 impoverished school districts. The pilot program engages middle school students (seventh and eighth grade) in architectural engineering related lessons and activities, by exploring engineering identities interactions with architectural engineering industry professionals, and by planning potential career pathways in architectural engineering and other STEM careers with Talent Search Counselors. The purpose of this paper is to present the background and process used in this funded NSF project for developing the suite of architectural engineering related lessons and activities and the research plan for answering the research question: How does the combination of meaningful engineering learning, exposure to professional engineers, and career planning, focused on building industry engineering applications, increase identity-based motivation of students from low-income households and marginalized students in pursuing STEM careers? Answering this question will inform future work developing interventions that target similar goals and will validate and expand the identity-based motivation framework. Keywords: middle school, identity, motivation, informal education. 
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  4. This Work in Progress (WIP) paper describes the development of a middle school program focused on an integrated STEM architectural engineering design project and exploration of career pathways. The current engineering workforce is increasingly aging, needing new engineering graduates to meet the industry demands. It is crucial to create inclusive educational programs in STEM to expose and connect with youths from diverse backgrounds, especially the demographics that are underrepresented, in STEM career paths. Middle school is a pivotal time for generating students’ awareness of and promoting pathways into STEM careers; however, opportunities to engage in engineering are often lacking or nonexistent, particularly for low-income students. Additionally, low-income students may bring particular experiences and skills from their backgrounds to engineering that may increase the innovation of engineering solutions. These assets are important to recognize and cultivate in young students. The Middle School Architectural Engineering Pilot Program (MSAEPP), drawing from social cognitive career theory and identity-based motivation, is an intervention designed to affect STEM-related content and STEM identities, motivation, and career goals for low-income students using relatable topics within the building industry. The focus on architectural engineering activities is because buildings, and the industry they represent, touch everyone’s lives. The MSAEPP is planned to be implemented through the Talent Search Programs at middle schools in Pennsylvania. The Talent Search Program is one of the Federal TRIO Programs dedicated to assisting high school students in furthering their education. Penn State Talent Search Programs serve 22 schools in 8 impoverished school districts. The pilot program engages middle school students (seventh and eighth grade) in architectural engineering-related lessons and activities, by exploring engineering identities interactions with architectural engineering industry professionals, and by planning potential career pathways in architectural engineering and other STEM careers with Talent Search Counselors. The purpose of this paper is to present the background and process used in this funded NSF project for developing the suite of architectural engineering related lessons and activities and the research plan for answering the research question: How do the combination of meaningful engineering learning, exposure to professional engineers, and career planning, focused on building industry engineering applications, increase identity-based motivation of students from low-income households and marginalized students in pursuing STEM careers? Answering this question will inform future work developing interventions that target similar goals and will validate and expand the identity-based motivation framework. Keywords: middle school, identity, motivation, informal education. 
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  5. This project uses an ecological belonging intervention approach [1] that requires one-class or one- recitation/discussion session to implement and has been shown to erase long-standing equity gaps in achievement in introductory STEM courses. However, given the wide social and cultural heterogeneity across US university contexts (e.g., differences in regional demographics, history, political climates), it is an open question if and how the intervention may scale. This project brings together an interdisciplinary team across three strategically selected universities to design, test, and iteratively improve an approach to systematically identify which first and second year courses would most benefit from the intervention, reveal student concerns that may be specific to that course, adapt the intervention to address those concerns, and evaluate the universality versus specificity of the intervention across university contexts. This systematic approach also includes persuasion and training processes for onboarding the instructors of the targeted courses. The instructor onboarding and the intervention adaptation processes are guided by a theory-of-action that is the backbone of the project’s research activities and iterative process improvement. A synergistic mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods is used throughout the study. In this paper, we describe our theoretical framing of this ecological belonging intervention and the current efforts of the project in developing customized student stories for the intervention. We have conducted focus groups across each of the partner institutions (University of Pittsburgh, Purdue University, and University of California Irvine). We describe the process of developing these contextually relevant stories and the lessons learned about how this ecological belonging intervention can be translated across institutional contexts and for various STEM majors and systemically minoritized populations. The results of this work can provide actionable strategies for reducing equity gaps in students' degree attainment and achievement in engineering. 
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