“Nothing is impossible”: characteristics of Hispanic females participating in an informal STEM setting

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Factors that influence the underrepresentation of females in STEM careers begin early in childhood when gender biases and stereotypes emerge. Stereotypes have a psychosocial effect on females that can lead to low self-efficacy and less interest in learning and pursuing STEM careers. This study investigated the effect of a STEM summer camp on K-12 students learning in which upper elementary students explored STEM concepts through magnetic levitation (MagLev) train activities, middle school students built and programmed robots, and high school students explored STEM through both MagLev train and robotics activities. A mixed methods design was used to analyze pre/posttest scores of all students and interviews of randomly selected Hispanic female students. Data indicated that Hispanic, high school females were less likely to participate in the STEM summer camp as compared to their elementary or middle school counterparts. In addition, there were no gender differences in academic achievement at the elementary level, but Hispanic females reported significantly higher learning gains than Hispanic males. In high school, Hispanic females reported significantly lower pretest scores than males. We conclude that there is a change in the characteristics, attitudes, and academic achievement of Hispanic females from elementary to high school, but informal STEM opportunities can mitigate this change.


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Cult Stud of Sci Educ