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Central Coast youth developing engineering and technology skills

The Issue

America faces a future of intense global competition with a startling shortage of scientists. In fact, only 18 percent of U.S. high school seniors are proficient in science (NAEP 2005) and a mere 5 percent of current U.S. college graduates earn science, engineering or technology degrees compared to 66 percent in Japan and 59 percent in China. To address increased demand for science and technology professionals, 4-H is working to reach a bold goal of engaging one million new young people in science programs by 2013. Currently, 4-H science programs reach more than 5 million youth with hands-on learning experiences to ensure global competitiveness and prepare the next generation of science, engineering, and technology leaders.

What Has ANR Done?

Partnering with the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, Central Coast youth are working with the University of California Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties to develop engineering and technology skills. After-school programs in Watsonville and Monterey have been engaging youth in building bionic arms, solar powered cars, water filtration systems and solar ovens through the TechXcite program and exposing youth to the planning and conceptual design of engineering. They are learning to use technology to apply their learning to real-world situations. Through participation in the TechXcite program, after-school staff have created science-rich environments at their sites by providing opportunities for youth to tinker and create small-scale solutions to large, long-term issues society is grappling with.

The Payoff

Youth prefer learning that is hands-on and engaging

During the course of 17 months, over 150 youth have participated in the TechXcite program at seven traditionally undeserved sites in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Impact data, collected via youth surveys, indicate that 80 percent of the participants “definitely feel science, engineering and technology help make our lives healthier, easier and more comfortable.” Additionally, 60 percent of youth indicate that they “definitely would rather do experiments to learn about how or why something happens than to read about it,” while another 80 percent of youth say they “definitely would like to do more activities like TechXcite." The responses show that the non-formal inquiry-based approach that 4-H uses to deliver science education programs make learning science enjoyable to youth.

Clientele Testimonial

Technology was new, crazy and fun - A youth participant


Supporting Unit:

Santa Cruz and Monterey counties
Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, (831) 763-8026, lschmittmcquitty@ucdavis.edu