Engaging Students in STEM Careers with Project-Based Learning-MarineTech Project: MarineTech Addresses the Urgent Need to Enhance Underrepresented Students' Interest and Performance in STEM Courses While Fostering Skills That Are Important Prerequisites for STEM Careers, Particularly in Marine Engineering, Physical Science, and Information Technology

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Introduction

Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University, in collaboration with the marine industry and local school systems, is improving STEM preparation using innovative experiences for students and teachers in the nation's major ship-building and repair areas through MarineTech and SBRCD projects. The MarineTech project will be serving 60 students in grades eight through twelve over a period of three years by providing 144 hours of instruction and hands-on learning experiences in the fields of marine engineering and physical sciences, with a shipbuilding focus. The program includes eight Saturdays during academic years, with an additional two-week academy during each summer. MarineTech's progressive curriculum covers foundational skills and knowledge of basic physical science as it relates to shipbuilding through the application of these principles in a culminating ship-design competition. The curriculum is enriched with program activities such as field trips to shipbuilding and repair companies, marine science museums, and career-day events.

MarineTech concurrently targets 60 math, science, and technology education teachers for grades eight through twelve, each of whom will receive 40 hours of summer professional development and 40 hours of follow-up training and support. Teachers will work an additional 40 hours with their students to build a SeaPerch underwater robot and design and build a human-powered container ship for competition. Participating teachers will be fully trained in curriculum implementation and will be given materials and resources necessary to replicate MarineTech activities in their classrooms.

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MarineTech addresses the urgent need to enhance underrepresented students' interest and performance in STEM courses while fostering skills that are important prerequisites for STEM careers, particularly in marine engineering, physical science, and information technology. In the near term, the project will incorporate activities designed to boost student scores on academic achievement measures (SOLs). However, the project also addresses the critical shortage of qualified workers needed to sustain the defense shipbuilding and repair industry in the U.S. Support for the project from shipbuilding companies and professional organizations and government agencies is evidenced by letters of commitment to assist with the project by providing opportunities for students to see marine industries at work.

Under a previous project funded by the National Shipbuilding Research Program, four hands-on activities were developed for middle and high school students. The project team, consisting of university faculty, industry personnel, and school and community college teachers, developed these four Marine Kits, MK-1-4 and five Instructional Modules, IM-l-5, to impart learning experience related to shipbuilding and repair. These activities and associated curriculum have been designed as an integrated experience, and each one builds upon the knowledge gained during the previous activity. Marine Kit-1 is related to shipyard operations and provides a big picture of how a shipyard operates. Marine Kit-2 deals with cost estimation and construction of a ship. Marine Kit-3 teaches about ship design and stability, while Marine Kit-4 deals with ship disaster investigation. The first Instructional Module deals with the terminology and history of ships; the second module deals with the structure of ships; the third module is about the design of the hull of a ship; the fourth module teaches different loading operations; and the fifth module is related to environmental issues during shipbuilding. Student comments point to a very stimulating learning experience. The article discusses the design and development of these activities and its subsequent implementation within the classroom.

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