14 Jan 2022
“The thing I’m most proud about would probably be that we put silence to the stereotypes and the doubts that we have being in the Delta,” said a high school sophomore living in the Mississippi Delta. “Who would expect Black kids who grew up in poverty in the Delta to be able to make a robot within a month and then go off to an international competition?”
The student, a participant in the Actualizing STEM Potential (ASP) in the Mississippi Delta project, provided that reflection after completing a robot for participating in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) robotics competition.
ASP in the Mississippi Delta, an afterschool robotics program now in its seventh year, encourages Black high school students to consider STEM careers by helping them realize their capacity to achieve in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The program, in its third year at a no-cost extension because of the pandemic, was funded by a $1.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
The program was patterned after an ongoing Montgomery County Public Schools robotics collaborative that Brenda Brand, ASP’s principal investigator and a professor of science education in the Virginia Tech School of Education, co-developed 22 years ago.
Brand continues to lead the Virginia Tech School of Education research team that developed the Mississippi Delta program, which is facilitated by high school instructors.
ASP students can enroll in their freshman year and remain in the program throughout their high school years. They take computer-aided drafting, computer programming, and electronics courses taught by faculty members from Mississippi Valley State University, a historically Black university near the school district.
The ASP program also includes pipeline STEM summer camps for students from third to eighth grades and career-oriented field trips and workshops, all designed to motivate and broaden students’ perceptions of the varied career paths in STEM fields.
The fall semester culminates in an annual STEM Night celebration in which students demonstrate their engineering design solutions, many of which are robotics applications that focus on solving problems in their local community and larger society.
Each spring, the program begins with a Saturday event that jump-starts the beginning of the FIRST Robotics competition. Teams from around the world attend the event. The ASP team is Delta Overload #6068.
“While the competition is a source of motivation,” Brand said, “the ASP program is not about winning a competition, although it would be a nice accomplishment. The ASP program is about supporting students in the Mississippi Delta in realizing their potential to pursue STEM careers. ASP is driven by a social justice framework that supports students in refuting deficit narratives about themselves and their communities through their achievements.”
Brand added that the ASP learning environment intentionally challenges the social messaging that too often diminishes minority students’ capabilities and sense of self. ASP attempts to counteract that messaging by setting high expectations and building students’ confidence through hands-on, experiential learning. This approach helps students meet the challenges the program provides them, building their sense of self-efficacy and helping them reimagine their futures.
“At first, I was kind of skeptical about it because I thought it was full of geeks or whatever, but then I turned out to be a geek myself,” said one ASP program participant. “I was like: I love it!”
Also involved in the ASP project are two co-principal investigators, Takumi Sato, an assistant clinical professor of science education, and Tom Williams, a professor of special education, both in the Virginia Tech School of Education. During the earlier years of the project, Sato supervised the doctoral students in developing the curriculum and provided support for the high school faculty members and students during competition events. Williams co-developed the research design and is currently supporting data analysis.
Research indicates that the program is having a positive impact on students’ scientific identities and sense of self-efficacy. Five of the nine students who entered as freshmen and remained throughout their high school years are attending college, where they are pursuing majors in engineering and other STEM fields.
Plans are underway to sustain the ASP program beyond the grant period. The research team is also planning to use the outcomes of the program as a springboard for a new initiative designed to advance their coursework and preparation for STEM majors.
“The ASP program in the Mississippi Delta is an excellent example of how we in the Virginia Tech School of Education are reimagining the future,” said Kristin Gehsmann, director of the School of Education. “We believe — and are proving every day — that research can, indeed, change lives and the world.”
Learn more about the Virginia Tech School of Education’s research, projects, labs, and centers here.
Written by Sharon Flynn Stidham
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The Rise of Online Businesses: A Comprehensive Guide to Success
In a world increasingly connected through the internet, the possibilities for starting and growing online businesses have expanded exponentially. Whether you’re looking to escape the traditional nine-to-five grind, want to tap into a global market, or are simply passionate about a niche interest, launching an online business is a promising venture. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key steps to success in the dynamic world of online entrepreneurship.
1. Choose Your Niche
The first crucial step in starting an online business is selecting the right niche. Identify your passions, expertise, and market demand. Research the competition and look for gaps that your business can fill. A well-defined niche will help you target the right audience and stand out in the crowded online marketplace.
2. Develop a Business Plan
Just like traditional businesses, online ventures require a solid business plan. Your plan should outline your business goals, strategies, financial projections, and marketing tactics. It’s a roadmap that will keep you focused and serve as a valuable reference point as your business grows.
3. Legal Structure and Registration
Choose a legal structure for your online business, such as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation. Register your business with the necessary authorities and obtain any required licenses or permits. This step is vital to ensure your business operates legally and efficiently.
4. Website Development
Your website is the heart of your online business. Create a professional, user-friendly website that reflects your brand and offers a seamless customer experience browse around this site. Ensure your site is mobile-responsive and optimized for search engines (SEO) to maximize your online visibility.
5. Branding and Identity
Build a strong brand identity that differentiates your online business. This includes designing a captivating logo, crafting a unique value proposition, and maintaining a consistent visual style and tone across all your online platforms.
6. E-Commerce and Payment Solutions
If your online business involves selling products or services, choose a reliable e-commerce platform and payment gateway. Offer various payment options to cater to your customers’ preferences and ensure secure transactions.
7. Content Creation
High-quality content is key to attracting and engaging your target audience. Develop a content strategy that includes blog posts, videos, and other relevant content that provides value to your audience. Consistent and relevant content can drive traffic and establish your authority in your niche.
8. Digital Marketing
Promote your online business through various digital marketing channels. These may include social media marketing, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and search engine optimization. Tailor your marketing efforts to reach your specific target audience.
9. Customer Service
Deliver excellent customer service to build trust and loyalty. Respond promptly to inquiries, resolve issues, and seek feedback to continually improve your products or services. Happy customers are more likely to become repeat buyers and refer others.
10. Data Analysis and Adaptation
Regularly monitor your online business’s performance through analytics tools. Analyze the data to make informed decisions and adapt your strategies accordingly. The online landscape evolves quickly, so staying agile and open to change is essential.
11. Legal and Tax Compliance
Stay informed about legal and tax obligations relevant to your online business. Compliance is vital to avoid legal issues and financial penalties. Consider consulting with a professional accountant or attorney to navigate the complexities of online business regulations and taxation.
12. Scale and Diversify
Once your online business is thriving, explore opportunities for growth. This might involve expanding your product or service range, reaching new markets, or diversifying your income streams. Continual innovation is key to long-term success.
In conclusion, the world of online businesses offers endless possibilities for aspiring entrepreneurs. By following these essential steps, you can increase your chances of creating a successful online venture. Remember that persistence, adaptability, and a commitment to providing value to your audience are fundamental qualities of a thriving online business owner.
The internet has revolutionized the way we do business. If you have a unique idea, a passion, or a solution to a problem, there’s never been a better time to start your online business. So, why wait? Take the plunge and embark on your journey to online business success today.