The Use of Sustained Experience in 4-H Fluid Power Education to Influence STEM Perception in Middle School Youth

2019-01-16T21:31:15Z (GMT) by Erika D. Bonnett

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are at the forefront of conversations in education, not only in Indiana, but across the country. This conversation is crossing boundaries from primary and secondary education, to academia, to government agencies, to industry. The inherent focus on STEM comes from an understanding of the impending job shortage in STEM jobs in the next decades. In the discipline of fluid power, the gap between education and industry with jobs is not easy to see because while the gap is known by industry experts there is a lack of literature documenting the gap. Most education is focused on the university level and preparation, and little effort is focused on gaining the interest of students in a K-12 education.

Through a partnership between Indiana 4-H, Purdue Polytechnic and the National Fluid Power Association, the creation of the 4-H NFPA Fluid Power Challenge was created to bridge the gap not only in STEM education through 4-H STEM programming, but to also give youth an opportunity to learn more about STEM and fluid power careers through this eight-week opportunity. The program focuses on collecting data on career interest, STEM attitudes, and fluid power interest. The focus of this dissertation is on the relationships between students participating in the 4-H NFPA fluid power challenge, years of participation, gender with career, STEM attitudes, and fluid power interest.

Gender and participation were two areas in which significant relationships were found in the data set. The relationship between the two as long as the relationship between before and after participation and career interest creates a picture that both answers the research questions posed in this dissertation, but also links to other research in this area on the matters of gender and STEM interest and careers. This study also highlights the importance of a focus on fluid power, and the impact that is seen specifically in sustained experiences in females who participate in Fluid Power programs.