Outcomes of NSF $1Million Grant Known as STEM-Inc


STEM-Inc is now complete and many of you have asked about the outcomes and impact of the three-year $1Million National Science Foundation Grant, which featured the CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship with Director John Bradley Jackson as Co-Private Investigator. Below is a summary of the project outcomes and a list of the published articles.

Project Outcomes:

STEM-Inc is an NSF ITEST project that is designed to research the effectiveness of using business venture creation principles, including both the traditional new venture creation approach and the emerging lean start-up approach, to engage students in STEM learning and develop interests in STEM and related careers. Results from three years of STEM-Inc project implementation indicated that such intervention is effective and has retained or improved student interests towards STEM and related careers. It also helped developing abilities and skills for students not only in STEM subjects but also in Entrepreneurship practices that are often needed in many STEM jobs.

Specifically, STEM-Inc is increasingly recruiting students from historically underrepresented groups in STEM careers. Fifty-five percent (55%) of STEM-Inc student participants identified themselves as African American or Latino in year 3, compared to 48% in year 2, and 30% in year 1. Forty-five percent (45%) also identified as female in year 3, compared to 49% in year 2, and 32% in year 1. Most of the STEM-Inc students had few or no experience in STEM and/or Business/Entrepreneurship prior to their participation in STEM-Inc. Across each of the three years, only about 20% of STEM-Inc students had experience in another after-school or summer STEM program. Percentage of students with prior experience in Business/Entrepreneurship is even lower, at 18% in year 1, 11% in year 2 and 10% in year 3.

STEM-Inc has attracted students with high interest and developed their confidence in STEM and entrepreneurship subject fields. Field interests were high at the end of each project year, with a three-year average of 7.15 in computer science, 7.73 in engineering, and 6.47 in entrepreneurship on a scale from 0 (least interested) to 10 (most interested). Similarly, student confidence with engineering and entrepreneurship practices was high, with a three-year average of 4.21 in engineering, and 3.91 in entrepreneurship on a scale from 1 (least confident) to 5 (most confident). In general, STEM-Inc students had higher interest and confidence towards engineering than entrepreneurship. In all areas, slight to medium increases were observed from year 1 to year 2, while decreases were observed from year 2 to year 3. The exact reasons for the drop were unknown, but could be due to the adoption of lean start-up approaches at all schools when students were required to frequently revisit customer needs to refine their project design which might expose them to additional challenges in both engineering and entrepreneurship subjects.

STEM-Inc has helped develop interests in engineering and entrepreneurship careers among participating students. Student interests towards careers in engineering, computer science and/or entrepreneurship had been consistently increased from year 1 to year 3, with a three year average of 3.66 in business/management; 3.89 in owning a business; 4.20 in being a scientist/engineer; and 4.03 in developing computer software on a scale from 1 (least interested) to 5 (most interested). Again, STEM-Inc students had higher career interests towards engineering and computer science than entrepreneurship.

STEM-Inc has helped students develop career-readiness skills and abilities in engineering and entrepreneurship among participating students, per self-report and teacher-evaluation. Participating students reported learning career-readiness skills like working on new technologies; developing knowledge of STEM content; spending time testing ideas and plans; creating projects; communicating with others; and identifying connections between STEM and entrepreneurship as a result of STEM-Inc activities. Interestingly, when it comes to the abilities developed in STEM-Inc, students identified different areas of strength and weakness than teachers. Student believed that their strength areas were a) searching for new ideas; b) developing a business concept; c) developing a plan to build a prototype; and d) creating and achieving group goals; and their biggest weakness was in investigating feasibility of a new business concept. In teacher’s opinion, students’ strength areas were a) Pitching a new business concept; and b) developing a plan to build a prototype; and their weakness areas were a) using effective oral/written communications; b) creating and achieving group goals; and c) diagnosing and resolving group conflicts.

Program changes (e.g. adoption of different entrepreneurship practices) and continuous improvements over the years (e.g. professional development for college mentors and teachers) in STEM-Inc have resulted in year-over-year changes in project outcomes, including both positive and negative ones. The exact reasons leading to these year-over-year changes were unknown, but worthwhile to be studied.


Jidong Huang, Amerika Bernal, John Jackson, Ye Lu. “Integrating STEM Education with Entrepreneurship Practices at Middle Schools: Feasibility Study and Preliminary Results,” HUIC S.T.E.A.M. & Education Conference 2016, Honululu, HI, 2016.

Jidong Huang, Ye Lu, Pradeep Nair, Amy Cox-petersen. “Engaging Middle School Students in Computer Science: from Visual Programming on Android to Coding in Arduino,” HUIC S.T.E.A.M & Education Conference 2016,Honolulu, HI, 2016. 

Pradeep Nair, Jidong Huang, John Jackson, Amy Cox-Petersen, Clay Elliott. “First Year Engineering Experiences of the STEM-Inc Project,” Eighth Annual (FYEE) First Year Engineering Experience Conference, Columbus, OH, 2016.

Nair, P., Huang, J., J. Jackson, A. Cox-Petersen & C. Elliott. “Combining STEM and Business Entrepreneurship for sustaining STEM-readiness,” Proceedings of the 2017 IEEE Integrated STEM Education Conference, Princeton, NJ, 2017.

Huang, J., A. Bernal, Y. Lu, J. Jackson, J. Kuscera, P. Nair & A. Cox-Petersen. “A Study on the Use of Company Structure in STEM Group Activities at Junior High Schools,” Proceedings of the 15th Hawaii International Conference on Education (HICE), Honolulu, HI, 2017. 

Huang, J., J. Jackson, P. Nair, & A. Cox-Petersen. “Using Lean Start-Up Approach to Integrate Engineering Education with Entrepreneurship Practices at Middle Schools,” Proceedings of the 124th ASEE (American Society on Engineering Education) Annual Conference and Exposition, Columbus, OH, 2017.

Huang, J.. “Using College Mentors to facilitate Informal STEM Learning Enhanced by Entrepreneurship Training in Middle Schools,” Proceedings of the 2018 AERA (American Educational Research Association) Annual Meeting, New York City, New York, Apr. 2018, 2018.

Huang, J., J. Kuscera, J. Jackson, P. Nair & A. Cox-Petersen. “Using Business Entrepreneurship Practices to Engage Middle School Students in STEM Learning: Three Years Perspective,” Proceedings of the 125th ASEE (American Society on Engineering Education) Annual Conference and Exposition, Salt Lake City, UT, Jun. 2018, 2018.

CSUF Entrepreneurship

We are dedicated to helping the next generation of entrepreneurs develop the skills that they need to compete locally and globally. The CSUF Entrepreneurship program does many things, including: consulting projects where students serve up fresh strategies to actual businesses, competitions for students from middle school to grad school, helping entrepreneurs go from concept to launch, frequent seminars and office hours for entrepreneurs and professionals, and much more. Interested in becoming a part of the CSUF Entrepreneurship community? Reach out to us at csufentrepreneurship@fullerton.edu for more information! CSUF Entrepreneurship depends on the support of the community, please go here to donate.

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