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Mobile Making

Mobile Making in the CSU

CSUSM is the lead institution on the NSF-funded project, "The Expansion of a Mobile Making Project That Engages Underserved Youth Across California in STEM" (NSF DRL 2215653). We're joined in this work by colleagues at three other CSU campuses: Long Beach, Fresno, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

This project aims to expand the Mobile Making program, ensuring its sustainability and reaching underserved youth across various communities. Our four CSU campuses will expand Mobile Making on multiple fronts:

  • Community and School Sites We're extending our reach to community sites, such as libraries and Boys and Girls Clubs, in addition to school sites.
  • Urban and Rural Contexts We're venturing into rural areas, alongside our urban and suburban endeavors.
  • Hybrid and Online Options Recognizing the importance of accessibility, we're introducing hybrid and online options alongside our in-person activities.
  • Future Teachers as Facilitators To enhance the program's impact, we're including future teachers as facilitators, alongside our STEM undergraduates.

Our program employs a design thinking framework to engage participants in tackling real-world problems that hold personal and social significance. Participants will have the opportunity to utilize both low- and high-tech tools, including circuits, coding, and robotics, to take on design challenges. Our diverse group of university students will lead weekly 90-minute activities, serving as near-peer mentors and creating a connection to the university for many of the youth participants, some of whom may be first-generation college students.

This project represents a significant expansion of the Mobile Making program, scaling up from 12 sites in North San Diego County to an impressive 48 sites across California. With nearly 2,000 university facilitators dedicating 12 hours of programming each year, we're poised to impact over 10,000 underserved youth, ranging from 4th to 8th graders, throughout the five-year project timeline.

Research and Evaluation

Our project will not only expand its reach but also assess its impact. Evaluation and research will determine if the additional sites and program variations result in positive outcomes for both the youth and university student participants. 

For youth in grades 4 through 8, we'll evaluate the impacts on sustained interest in making and STEM, increased self-efficacy in these areas, and a greater sense of relevance to their lives. University student facilitators will be examined for impacts such as expanded technical skills, increased leadership and 21st-century skills, and a lifelong interest in STEM outreach and informal science education.

We will employ a mix of data sources, including attendance numbers, student artifacts, surveys, focus groups, feedback forms, observations, and field notes to assess participant outcomes. The data will be analyzed, considering factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, grade level, and site to understand the program's impact across diverse contexts. Additionally, we will compare findings from different implementation sites (e.g., school vs. library), learner groups (e.g., middle vs. upper elementary students), and facilitator groups (e.g., STEM majors vs. future teachers).

This approach will allow us to conduct cross-case comparisons between CSU campuses. Furthermore, we'll compare findings from urban and rural school sites, as well as different teaching and learning modalities (e.g., in-person vs. online).

Sharing Our Success

We're committed to sharing our mobile making program activities, project research, and a toolkit for implementing a Mobile Maker program. Our goal is to disseminate this valuable information to researchers, educators, and out-of-school programs, ensuring that the positive impact reaches far and wide. We look forward to an exciting journey of making and learning together!


Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.