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Engagement, Interest, and Efficacy in STEM


  • Was NASA’s STEM program for underserved K-12 students working?
  • Abt conducted an implementation study and an impact study
  • Findings regarding engagement and fundraising were available
The Challenge

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) project is a science enrichment program aimed at inspiring, engaging, and educating K–12 students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). SEMAA is designed to attract and retain students, particularly those who are historically underserved and underrepresented in STEM fields, through educational opportunities that capitalize on NASA missions, expertise, technology, and resources.

The Approach

This project involved an implementation study and an impact study. The implementation study used data from extant sources and interviews with the 14 open sites and six closed sites. The impact study, which investigated short-term outcomes, was a randomized control trial of students in 4th through 8th grades, their parents, or caregivers from six sites. Abt administered surveys to students and parents in the treatment and control groups at application for the Fall session and after the session.

The Results

At baseline, the study found high levels of interest in STEM among students and parents. Key findings included:

  • The study did not reveal overall impacts of the SEMAA program on short‐term outcomes.
  • Student attendance had a positive relationship with a greater desire to engage in science-related activities.
  • Sites engage students in SEMAA for multiple years.
  • Site fundraising was insufficient to sustain the program without NASA funding.
  • Monitoring data are limited and need augmentation to investigate SEMAA’s long‐term outcomes.