Background: Through the human-centered design process (HCD), students, referred to as learners, can use a personal lens to contextualize engineering concepts and solve real-world problems (Goldman and Kabayadondo 2016). The Ignite program, created by the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies (GWHT) at Duke University, integrates the HCD process into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to advance social justice through an iterative research-to-practice methodology. Ignite fosters secondary school students’ ability to engineer viable solutions to pressing global issues outlined by the United Nations as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Purpose: This work evaluates the efficacy of the Ignite Water curriculum as a scalable and sustain-able intervention for STEM opportunity gaps, SDG #4, and clean water, SDG #6. Ultimately, this work investigates the ability of a community-centered design thinking initiative to transform learners’ behavioral indicators, including their knowledge, attitude, and awareness.
Methods: Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (K.A.P.) methodology was used to capture changes in three indicators of behavior change: (1) learners’ relevant content knowledge, (2) their attitudes towards STEM and (3) awareness of healthy water management practices. The mixed methods research tabulated survey data and interviews to determine best practices for STEM intervention programs. Of the 697 participants, 523 learners across 6 schools served as a sample population for this study.
Results: The innovative Ignite program engaged a diverse population in engineering solutions for water pollution in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. The intervention increased students’ knowledge and awareness related to the local water contamination; especially, the causes of contamination and the treatment options. Female learners demonstrated an increase in self-efficacy in engineering careers, while male learners’ self-efficacy for math and community problem-solving increased. Overall, learners’ knowledge and awareness of water pollution and their attitudes towards STEM improved. Trainers echoed key findings in semi-structured interviews.
Conclusions: Ignite, the sustainable and scalable intervention for social impact, integrated the HCD process with the SDGs to promote local problem solving, improve self-efficacy and broaden participation in engineering.