The research work that I did this summer at the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center (KAYSC) for the CURA Nelson Program was informed by and grew out of a three year partnership I have had with the KAYSC as a graduate student from the University of Minnesota and my current dissertation project, (Re) Envisioning the Civic: Youth Making Meaning within a Civic Technology Project. Using a critical ethnographic research design, my dissertation investigates the meaning-making practices and civic identity development of the Teen Tech Crew (TTC) members within the science and technology-focused community based organization and their role as agents (producers of technology) amidst the structural inequalities around them. My study builds on the existing collaboration between members of the TTC and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs’ (CURA) civic technology initiative (CURA:Tech). The TTC, a diverse group of lower income youth, are one of the high-school “ crews” at the KAYSC. KAYSC “crews” are groups of 8-12 youth, an adult project assistant, and an adult crew manager who work collectively on specific STEM issues within their communities. Together, the TTC members learn creative problem solving, facilitation, and digital literacy skills through technology workshops that they run at local libraries (Struck et al., 2014). With the support of CURA:Tech, the teens are developing a civic technology tool to address the lack of access that young people in their community have to job resources. The tool that the teens develop from this project and the community-building processes involved will help broaden their participation in the local and national conversation about civic technology development and youth civic action.
Presently, the TTC members are designing the civic technology tool, What’s Werk?. What’sWerk? is a fun and educational Youtube web series that addresses the necessary skills young people need to get and maintain a job. What’sWerk? is unique in that it is one of only two civic technology tools designed during the CURA:Tech initiative that was created for young people--designed by young people. The target audience for What’sWerk? is other young people from marginalized communities in the Twin Cites metro area. Through this project, the TTC members seek to strengthen their own communities by connecting young people in their neighborhoods to job resources, experiences, and local youth-serving career focused organizations and employers. The essence of their work lies in their commitment to social justice and helping young people in their communities make meaningful connections that provide ample opportunities for access and participation along their career pathways.
As a CURA graduate student researcher this summer, a significant chunk of my work involved evaluating the Human Centered Design (HCD) process and methods taken up by the TTC members during phase one and phase two of the CURA:Tech civic technology project. KAYSC staff and I were interested in investigating what worked and what didn’t work within the first two phases of the CURA:Tech initiative and what insights could be gathered from the HCD process that could benefit the work of other crews at the KAYSC and the larger curricular design of the KAYSC high school program, The STEM Justice framework. Below, outcomes from my evaluation work this summer are described in-depth. First, I describe the Human Centered Design Method, the process used by the TTC during the civic technology initiative. Then, I describe the KAYSC high school program’s curricular design, the STEM Justice Framework. Finally, I highlight two key findings from the TTC’s work that I believe could be interwoven into the STEM Justice Framework: Focusing on People’s Stories and Breaking Down the Problem before Jumping to a Solution.
Conducted on behalf of Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center. Supported by the Kris Nelson Community-Based Research Program, a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
Highlighting What Worked: Lessons Learned from the Teen Tech Crew’s Civic Technology Project, What’sWerk?.
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