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Middle School Students in Study of DDC STEAM Show Increased Interest, Ability and Confidence in Math and Science

June 28, 2018

Ian Michaels

Long Island City, NY – A study of 230 NYC middle school students who participated in middle school enrichment programs under the NYC Department of Design and Construction’s (DDC) STEAM education initiative from summer 2017 through the current 2018 school year has found that after participating in STEAM programming students were more interested in technical career fields, were more confident in their ability to do math and science and showed a greater desire to take additional math and science classes.

STEAM Middle School June 2018
Almost 200 NYC public middle school students visited DDC in June as part of STEAM’s Young Engineers Showcase

Throughout the summer of 2017 and the ongoing 2018 school year, public middle school students took part in the Young Engineers Program facilitated by STEAM. At the beginning of each six-week program students were given a pre-questionnaire with 21 statements asking them to rank from 1 – 4 their affinity toward and perceived capability in STEAM career fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Architecture and Math).

At the end of the program students were asked to complete the same questionnaire. An evaluation of 230 students at seven different middle schools in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn who completed both questionnaires showed that following the STEAM programming the students demonstrated:

  • A 13% decrease in the belief that engineering and architecture are fields for other people, not for underrepresented students like those in the program;
  • A 12% increase in the desire to study engineering or architecture in college;
  • A 11% decrease in the belief that it’s boring to learn new engineering vocabulary words;
  • A 9% increase in the belief that students like them can become engineers and architects;
  • A 8% increase in interest in STEAM career fields, and in the desire to take more math and science classes in middle or high school.

“There are very capable young people who lack the confidence in themselves to enter STEAM fields, or who lack a role model to show them what’s possible,” said DDC Acting Commissioner Ana Barrio. “These results show that educational programming that introduces new concepts and ideas to students really does open young minds, generating interest in future learning and development. We look forward to working with even more students throughout the City.”

“This survey underscores the fact that many children from disadvantaged communities are hungry for an opportunity to excel in challenging work. Engineering, architecture, and other STEAM fields suffer from a lack of minorities and women. Our research gives real hope that that can change,” said Lee Llambelis, DDC Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnerships and STEAM Initiatives.

DDC’s STEAM education initiative, established in 2014 to increase interest among students in technical career fields, works with Title I public schools in every borough. For students in grades six through eight, STEAM facilitates the Young Engineers Program, using the agency’s “Building the Future” curriculum to teach concepts such as the structural characteristics of 3D shapes, bridge engineering, constructing with I-beams, creating building models and sustainable technologies such as bioswales, tower gardens and green roofs.

The curriculum was developed by DDC’s Office of Community Partnerships and STEAM in partnership with Dr. Leonisa Ardizzone, a science educator and founder of Storefront Science, who also performed the study. Dr. Ardizzone holds an Ed.D. in International Educational Development with a specialization in Peace Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and Ed.M in Science Education and a B.A. in Biology.

DDC also holds professional development sessions for NYC public school teachers to instruct them on how to implement the curriculum in their classrooms. In those training sessions, middle school teachers perform many of the Young Engineers activities, including creating model buildings, infrastructure structures, homes, bridges, public areas and streetscapes to demonstrate design and construction methods that can better withstand climate change and rising sea levels.

Teachers who went through the professional development sessions were also surveyed as part of the study. Ninety percent agreed that the training increased their understanding of STEM concepts, 88% agreed that the training encourages innovative instructional practices and 75% stated that the activities they learned would work well for their middle school students.

More than 2,450 students at 52 schools have been served by STEAM since its inception, including 1,236 at 39 schools in grades six through eight. Since 2015, 741 students at 27 different sites have participated in the Young Engineers Program through STEAM.

Other STEAM programs for public school students include the ACE Mentor Program, Introduce a Girl to Architecture, Engineering and Construction and high school summer internships. STEAM also helps to coordinate DDC’s long-time college and graduate summer internship program.


About the NYC Department of Design and Construction

The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit