Physics and mathematics learning outcomes of underserved and underrepresented DREAM mentees at three urban high schools

Andres Goza, David Garland, Brent Houchens

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The DREAM Program (Designing with Rice Engineers - Achievement through Mentorship) was created in 2007 to encourage underrepresented and underprivileged high school students (mentees) toward a college education with an emphasis in STEM fields. This goal is achieved through a design project, which allows Rice University engineering students (mentors) to develop relationships with their mentees and promote higher education. Currently, DREAM serves three Houston, Texas public schools: Austin High School (AHS), Chavez High School (CHS), and KIPP Houston High School (KIPP). Mentees included in this study range from grades 9-12 at AHS, grades 9 and 11 at CHS, and only grade 9 at KIPP. Throughout the program, greater than 95% of mentees have been from underrepresented groups. Projects are designed, fabricated, and tested over a 5-7 week period. Mentees present and test their final designs at Rice University on DREAM Day. Intuition Inventory (I.I.) and Physics Concepts Inventory (P.C.I.) data tracks the mentees progress in learning physics. The long-term goal of DREAM is to instill a passion for STEM fields in mentees. Of equal importance, mentees must be prepared for the coursework that they will face upon entering college in a STEM field. Thus, by tracking improved knowledge in physics concepts, DREAM is able to ensure that the mentees are both interested and prepared for study in STEM fields. The fact that DREAM is able to present basic physics concepts in an interactive, hands-on way allows for both of these goals to be met. Inventory data from spring 2009 and fall 2009 is presented for both mentees and a control group. Retention issues are also discussed, as concept retention has been measured both in the short-term (several weeks) and long-term (approximately four months over the summer recess). Data indicates that, when presented in an effective manner, correct answers on I.I. questions increase from roughly 50% to between 80 and 100%. Those questions showing less significant improvement are also discussed. Not surprisingly, P.C.I. data is more varied, as questions on the P.C.I. require algebraic notation or computation. These results require additional interpretation that accounts for mentees' levels of mathematics education and abilities. Results from both will guide more effective future implementations of DREAM. In the fall 2009 AHS College Preparatory Survey, all but one senior that had previously participated in DREAM (seven of eight) indicated that they were interested in pursuing engineering. The last wished to study architecture. This indicates the success of DREAM in presenting physics concepts in an exciting and intellectually stimulating format.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes
Event2010 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Louisville, KY, United States
Duration: Jun 20 2010Jun 23 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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