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IES Contract

Title: Dear Smart Girl: Game-Based STEM Career Exploration For Elementary Aged Girls
Center: NCER Year: 2023
Principal Investigator: Olukeye, Abi Awardee: Smart Girls HQ, LLC
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (07/17/2023 – 07/17/2025) Award Amount: $1,000,000
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: 91990023C0038

Purpose: New education interventions are needed to engage elementary-aged girls in real-world problem-solving designed to develop their interests in STEM and build their confidence and literacy in STEM career opportunities. This project will develop a STEM career exploration product for girls in Grade 5, consisting of a whimsical online game-based narrative designed to be appealing to girls, and a corresponding real-world hands-on physical activity kit to apply learning of the same concept as in the game.

Project Activities: During Phase I in 2022, the team developed a prototype module for electrical engineering, including a digital game and a hands-on activity. In the online activity students created a virtual light-up headband using circuitry, with the software providing hints and cues to students they progressed.  During the hands-on activity, students were given a physical kit with circuitry to create a real light-up headband. At the end of Phase I, in a pilot study with 112 grade 5 female students, the research team found that the prototype digital game and physical kit both functioned as planned, students were engaged and could successfully transfer knowledge from the game to the hands-on replica project, and students showed increases in basic knowledge of circuits in a pre- to -post assessment.

In Phase II of the project, the team will fully develop the product, including an additional seven online modules with story arcs and accompanying physical kits, post activity student assessments, and an educator dashboard to capture student progress in the digital game. Iterative refinements will be conducted with feedback from educators and students at major production milestones until the product is fully functional. After development concludes, a pilot study will test the feasibility and usability, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the product for improving science learning among girls. The team will collect data from 20 grade school classes with 400 female students overall, with half randomly assigned to use the product and the other half to use business-as-usual activities for the same course content.  Researchers will compare pre-and-post scores on researcher developed measures of content knowledge and will measure interest in STEM careers using the Science Motivation Questionnaire II, the STEM Career Interest Survey, and the Student Attitudes toward STEM. Researchers will gather cost information using the "ingredients method" and will include all expenditures on things such as personnel, facilities, equipment, materials, and training.

Product: This project will fully develop a STEM career exploration platform that combines an online interactive game-based learning curriculum with offline engaging activity kits to promote STEM career literacy among elementary-aged girls. Eight modules will be fully developed, each focusing on a STEM career domain such as electrical engineering or product design. Learners will engage in real-world problem solving with while being immersed in a whimsical narrative and virtual world designed to appeal to girls. After completing the project digitally, students will be asked to transfer their knowledge offline by completing the project in real life with a physical project kit. The product is designed to inspire increased participation in STEM subjects and electives among female students once they reach middle and high school.

Related IES Projects: Dear Smart Girl: Game-Based STEM Career Exploration for Elementary Aged Girls (91990022C0025)

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

Company Website: