Understanding the STEM crisis: evaluating perceptions, culture, and barriers to entry (STS research paper)

Zack, Jillian, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Lee, Jongmin, Department of Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Improving achievements in science, technology, engineering, and math will ensure that the United States can compete globally, create jobs, and achieve high levels of economic growth. The STEM crisis being faced by the nation can be attributed to a developing concern regarding a shortage of qualified workers to meet the increased demand of job opportunities in the field. For my STS research, I explore the attitudes and perceptions surrounding the STEM field. By understanding the role of parents, teachers, and the media I am able to characterize the underlying stereotypes affecting the STEM field - thereby offering recommendations for the next generation of students. The second area I study focuses on the barriers to enter the discipline. Characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, and affluence play a central role in a student’s ability to pursue a career in STEM. Similarly, by relating these barriers of entry to the student body at the University of Virginia, I am able to extend this discussion beyond previous research in the field. As society becomes more technologically complex, future generations need to embrace the effects technology has on their everyday lives and understand the relevance a STEM career can have. One of the steps in successfully promoting STEM is early exposure to the field, which allows students to become involved with research and hands-on projects. For the technical portion of my thesis, my team created a pinball machine in order to illustrate this point. Historically, these machines have highly outdated structural mechanisms which do not reflect the modernity of current technology. This project developed an integrated system of technological components in which the team sought to engineer new ways to assimilate software and electronics together. Using this technical project in conjunction with my STS research, allows me to provide a cohesive understanding of the effects STEM can have beyond the classroom.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
employment, STEM, career, barriers

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-05-03 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2016-11-30 15:24:47.

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: