I4all (Interests for All): A Smart Socio-Technical Infrastructure to Identify, Cultivate, and Sustain Youth STEAM Interests in a Diverse Midsized American City
Lead PI:
Nichole Pinkard

This project is a Smart and Connected Communities award. The community is part of Evanston, Illinois and is composed of the lead partners described below:

- EvanSTEM which is a in-school/out of school time (OST) program to improve access and engagement for students in Evanston who have underperformed or been underrepresented in STEM.

- McGaw YMCA which consists of 12,000 families serving 20,000 individuals and supporting technology and makerspace activities (MetaMedia) in a safe community atmosphere.

- Office of Community Education Partnerships (OCEP) at Northwestern University which provides support for the university and community to collaborate on research, teaching, and service initiatives.

This partnership will develop a new approach to learning engagement through the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) interests of all young people in Evanston. This project is entitled Interests for All (I4All) and builds upon existing research results of the two Principal Investigators (PIs) and previous partnerships between the lead partners (EvanSTEM and MetaMedia had OCEP as a founding partner). I4All also brings together Evanston school districts, OST prividers, the city, and Evanston's Northwestern University as participants.

In particular the project builds on PI Pinkard's Cities of Learning project and co-PI Stevens' FUSE Studios project. Both of these projects have explicit goals to broaden participation in STEAM pursuits, a goal that is significantly advanced through I4All. In this project, I4All infrastructure will be evaluated using quantitative metrics that will tell the researchers whether and to what degree Evanston youth are finding and developing their STEAM interests and whether the I4All infrastructure supports a significantly more equitable distribution of opportunities to youth. The researchers will also conduct in depth qualitative case studies of youth interest development. These longitudinal studies will complement the quantitative metrics of participation and give measures that will be used in informing changes in I4All as part of the PIs Design Based Implementation Research approach. The artifacts produced in I4All include FUSE studio projects, software infrastructure to guide the students through OST and in-school activities and to provide to the students actionable information as to logistics for participation in I4All activities, and data that will be available to all stakeholders to evaluate the effectiveness of I4All. Additionally, this research has the potential to provide for scaling this model to different communities, leveraging the OST network in one community to begin to offer professional development more widely throughout the school districts and as an exemplar for other districts. These research results could also affect strategies and policies created by local school officials and community organizations regarding how to work together to create local learning environments to create an ecosystem where formal and informal learning spaces support and reinforce STEAM knowledge.

Nichole Pinkard
Nichole Pinkard is the founder of Digital Youth Network and L3, a social learning platform that connects youth’s learning opportunities across the school, home, community, and beyond. Through collaborations with city agencies Pinkard and DYN’s work has ignited new models for reimagining, visualizing, and documenting learning across spaces through the creation of existence proofs in urban contexts. Pinkard received a 2010 Common Sense Media Award for Outstanding Commitment to Creativity and Youth, the Jan Hawkins Award for Early Career Contributions to Humanistic Research and Scholarship in Learning Technologies, an NSF Early CAREER Fellowship. She earned her bachelor’s in computer science from Stanford University, a master’s in computer science from Northwestern, and her doctorate in learning sciences from Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. Her current scholarly interests include the design and use of pedagogical-based social networks and socio-technical systems to support community-level ecological models of learning.

Hear Pinkard, in her own words, describe the focus of her research over the past 15 years. There is still much work to do as this video captured eight years ago is as true today as then!
Performance Period: 10/01/2018 - 06/30/2022
Institution: Northwestern University
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Number: 1831685