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AHS Capstone

Olin requires its students to take 28 credits in Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Entrepreneurship (AHSE) areas. As part of this program, we have the opportunity to conduct a capstone project.

My AHSE concentration is in education. I am conducting my capstone project on writing a grant-type proposal for engineering education out reach programs at Olin. This project involves an intensive literature review and synthesis of research.

This is my project proposal:

Informal education, defined as activities that are supplemental to formal learning, including but not limited to exhibits and demonstrations in museums, zoos, television programs, books, hobbies. These experiences are typically characterized by voluntary participation. These types of experiences have served to supplement students’ typical classroom experiences in order to generate excitement and interest in academic subjects. 

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education has been under close surveillance over the past 15 years. The United States has seen a growing lack of interest in students pursuing these career fields, which has serious implications for the nation’s readiness for economic and political competition in the global arena. In addition, the students’ development of essential skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, and curiosity, is not always facilitated in the classrooms. Motivating student interests and providing them the cognitive tools to do so is critical to meeting the problems and needs of the 21st century.

Many universities have started their own education outreach programs in technical subjects, trying to motivate student interest in STEM. Undergraduate and graduate students are being enlisted nationwide to act as mentors for K-12 students. They take roles in classrooms, as online advisors, and offer afterschool and Saturday enrichment programs at their universities. In order to reduce achievement gaps on a large-scale, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking programs that are: sustainable, characterized by education research on teaching and learning, create new materials for distribution, and evaluate student achievement and program effectiveness.

 Olin College is uniquely positioned for facilitating education outreach in order to meet the nation’s goals. The college has an interest in bettering engineering education, and encouraging interdisciplinary studies and project-based learning methods. Students and faculty are involved in rigorous education research spanning many different areas. As a small school of roughly 300 students and 30 faculty outside the Boston area, Olin is capable of being involved with many different types of organizations (schools, museums, etc.). The college has started pursuing outreach program development through a STEM program with the Boston Metro West schools and through a service initiative, Engineering Discovery (as well as a handful of other programs including FIRST mentoring and the Society for Women Engineers middle school girls program).  Olin College can create a sustainable program in education outreach, through Saturday programs on-campus facilitated by Olin undergraduates and mentored by Olin faculty. The curriculum we develop through this grant can then be exported to other area schools and classrooms. This capstone, through a grant proposal for, aims to identify an outreach model appropriate for Olin, in order to meet the goals of the college and the national curriculum.