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Highlighting What Worked: Lessons Learned from the Teen Tech Crew’s Civic Technology Project, What’sWerk?

Struck, Maggie

research work that I did this summer at the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center
(KAYSC) for the CURA Nelson Program was informed by and grew out of a three
year partnership I have had with the KAYSC as a graduate student from the
University of Minnesota and my current dissertation project, (Re)
Envisioning the Civic: Youth Making Meaning within a Civic Technology Project
. Using a
critical ethnographic research design, my dissertation investigates the
meaning-making practices and civic identity development of the Teen Tech Crew (TTC)
members within the science and technology-focused community based organization
and their role as agents (producers of technology) amidst the structural
inequalities around them. My study builds on the existing collaboration between
members of the TTC and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs’ (CURA) civic
technology initiative (CURA:Tech). The TTC, a diverse group of lower income
youth, are one of the high-school “ crews” at the KAYSC. KAYSC “crews” are
groups of 8-12 youth, an adult project assistant, and an adult crew manager who
work collectively on specific STEM issues within their communities. Together,
the TTC members learn creative problem solving, facilitation, and digital
literacy skills through technology workshops that they run at local libraries
(Struck et al., 2014). With the support of CURA:Tech, the teens are developing
a civic technology tool to address the lack of access that young people in
their community have to job resources. The tool that the teens develop from
this project and the community-building processes involved will help broaden
their participation in the local and national conversation about
civic technology development and youth civic action.

Presently, the TTC members are designing the civic technology
tool, What’s Werk?. What’sWerk? is a
fun and educational Youtube web series that addresses the necessary skills young
people need to get and maintain a job. What’sWerk?
is unique in that it is one of only two civic technology tools designed during
the CURA:Tech initiative that was created for
young people--designed by young
people. The target audience for What’sWerk?
is other young people from marginalized communities in the Twin Cites metro
area. Through this project, the TTC members seek to strengthen their own communities
by connecting young people in their neighborhoods to job resources,
experiences, and local youth-serving career focused organizations and
employers. The essence of their work lies in their commitment to social justice
and helping young people in their communities make meaningful connections that provide
ample opportunities for access and participation along their career pathways.

As a CURA graduate student researcher this summer, a significant chunk
of my work involved evaluating the Human Centered Design (HCD) process and methods
taken up by the TTC members during phase one and phase two of the CURA:Tech civic
technology project. KAYSC staff and I were interested in investigating what
worked and what didn’t work within the first two phases of the CURA:Tech
initiative and what insights could be gathered from the HCD process that could
benefit the work of other crews at the KAYSC and the larger curricular design
of the KAYSC high school program, The STEM Justice framework. Below, outcomes
from my evaluation work this summer are described in-depth. First, I describe
the Human Centered Design Method, the process used by the TTC during the civic
technology initiative. Then, I describe the KAYSC high school program’s
curricular design, the STEM Justice Framework. Finally, I highlight two key
findings from the TTC’s work that I believe could be interwoven into the STEM
Justice Framework: Focusing on People’s Stories and Breaking Down the Problem
before Jumping to a Solution.

Publication date: 
Conducted on behalf of Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center. Supported by the Kris Nelson Community-Based Research Program, a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
Online availability
CURA call number: 
KNCBR 1397