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CAST to Explore Using Drones to Get Rural Middle School Girls Interested in STEM Careers

National Science Foundation (NSF) logo with CAST waves in the background

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

CAST will receive $1.5 million over three years from the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to explore and study the use of drones to teach rural middle school girls about science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM) and the potential of STEM careers for women.

Led by Principal Investigator Amanda Bastoni, EdD, of CAST’s workforce and career education team, researchers will investigate the use of drones to increase knowledge and skills in multiple STEM disciplines, raise awareness of different STEM-related occupations, employ communal problem-solving strategies, and provide motivation to pursue STEM careers.

“‘Take Flight,’ as we’re calling the project, gives us the opportunity to confront society's messaging and girls’ own perceptions about what STEM skills are,” says Bastoni. “The importance of communal goals is a critical but sometimes underappreciated aspect of STEM work. But this approach is especially important as the world continues to confront complex and large scale problems that cannot be solved without teams of individuals working together.”

“Take Flight” will be conducted in rural New Hampshire and Maine, where access to female role models in STEM careers may be limited. The applied research and development funds come through the NSF’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (iTEST) program.

In Phase 1, CAST will co-design the “Take Flight” curriculum with educators, guidance staff, and an industry and state-level leader advisory board. In Phase 2, the team will conduct a pilot test with middle school students in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) setting, design teacher professional development, and develop a fidelity implementation measure. Phase 3 will involve a quasi-experimental field test and follow up with students.

“Take Flight” will provide critical insights and much-needed research into effective strategies for supporting girls in exploring STEM careers.

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