STEM Familia: A language acquisition mobile app to improve long-term educational and health outcomes among Latino families

Period of Performance: 09/25/2017 - 08/31/2018


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Oregon RES Behavioral Intervention Strat
Eugene, OR 97403
Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator


PROJECT SUMMARY/ABSTRACT STEM Familia: A language acquisition mobile app to improve long-term educational and health outcomes among Latino families. Enhancing the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) proficiency of Hispanic elementary students to prepare them for success in secondary-school and college STEM courses, and in STEM fields after graduation. While STEM fields account for most U.S. economic growth, Latino students are not likely to enroll or complete degrees in undergraduate and graduate STEM programs. Given well-established research linking grade completion, economic success, and overall health and well-being, this trend portends serious, negative, long-term physical and mental health outcomes for Latinos. Access to higher education generally, and to enrollment in STEM programs in particular, is hindered by lagging academic literacy and especially by unfamiliarity with abstract words that make up the scientific academic vocabulary (SAV). Words such as conclusion, evidence, method, integrate, relevant, distinct, and component are fundamental to STEM content-area learning, but are uncommon in everyday conversation, particularly in low-SES homes where English is not the first language. To promote Latino students? SAV proficiency, we propose a technology-based approach to acquiring and practicing SAV in family settings. We will build mobile technology that schools can share with upper elementary students and their families to increase students? exposure to evidence-based SAV instruction. STEM Familia, a Spanish-English app for mobile phones and tablets, will enable schools to overcome language and access barriers that impede families? engagement in academic support. Latino families are regular users of mobile phones. This technology can be used to deploy rich media strategies, including (1) motion-graphic illustration and definition of target words, (2) touch-screen games that stimulate vocabulary recognition and recall, and (3) brief video vignettes that model the use of target words in culturally appropriate family contexts. STEM Familia will also enable schools to leverage classroom instructional time by enabling content- area and ELD teachers to provide synchronous practice opportunities and feedback on the target vocabulary. Phase I will establish proof of concept by testing a STEM Familia prototype. This will involve the participation of 127 participants in focus groups, usability testing, and program evaluation. The latter will involve a pilot study by 44 dyads of Latino 4th/5th grade students and one of their parents. In Phase II we will build the full program and subject it to a randomized controlled study with a large and adequately powered sample of students and their families.