Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) Girls in a Robotics Leadership Project

August 1st, 2021 - July 31st, 2024 | PROJECT

This award is funded in whole or in part under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Public Law 117-2).

Research shows that Black girls and women, regardless of their academic achievements and STEM interests, often encounter academic under-preparation, social isolation, exclusion, and race-gender discrimination that negatively impacts their ongoing engagement and retention in STEM. This project will provide innovative, culturally relevant learning environments to middle and high school Black girls to counter these negative trends. Using hands-on coding and robotics activities, project participants will develop positive attitudes toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The project emphasizes peer-mentoring by providing opportunities for Black female high school (assistant coaches) and Black college students (coaches) to serve as counselors and mentors to participants. Additionally, engineers, scientists, and executives from STEM industries will serve as mentors and share their experiences to broaden participants’ STEM career aspirations. The project is a three-year collaborative effort between the University of California Davis C-STEM Center, the Umoja Community Education Foundation, and the 66 affiliated California community colleges, industry partners, and school districts in California. Over three years, nearly 2,000 females will participate in the project.

Learning environments for Black girls and women led by other Black girls and women are referred to as “counterspaces” where they are free to engage in STEM in ways that value their identities while promoting STEM engagement, interests, and career aspirations. The project’s curriculum will follow a research-based, culturally relevant multi-tiered mentoring approach. The curriculum is designed to develop participants’ STEM content knowledge, critical thinking, and logical reasoning capabilities through meaningful connections to real-life applications using hands-on coding and robotics. A mixed-method longitudinal study will examine the impact on participants’ STEM outcomes, emphasizing contributing new knowledge on the viability of multi-tiered, culturally relevant mentoring for increasing equity in informal STEM learning (ISL). The program's effectiveness will be evaluated using longitudinal assessments of mathematics standards, computer science and robotics conceptual knowledge, logical and critical thinking skills, STEM school achievements, interests and attitudes toward STEM subjects, advanced STEM course-taking, involvement in other ISL opportunities, and leadership in STEM in one’s school/university and community. The project will test a locally based informal learning model with projects hosted by other K-12 and college partners.

This Innovations in Development project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to (a) advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments; (b) provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; (c) advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and (d) engage the public of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Harry Cheng, Principal Investigator, University of California-Davis
Faheemah Mustafaa, Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2116118
Funding Amount: $1,523,397.00


Access and Inclusion: Black | African American Communities | Ethnic | Racial | Women and Girls
Audience: Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists | Undergraduate | Graduate Students | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Computing and information science | Technology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Public Programs

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within InformalScience.org are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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