Acquainting Metro Atlanta Youth with STEM (AMAYS) is a design-based research project involving the creation, implementation, and evaluation of a unique ICT-rich informal learning environment for urban middle school youth. The project will be implemented through the After-School All Stars Atlanta (ASAS) program, which operates at multiple middle school sites in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. The AMAYS intervention involves participants working on flexible, modularized computer science activities in an informal, after school learning environment. The activities are centered around using MIT’s App Inventor, a web application that allows novice computer programmers to develop android applications using a block-based interface.

Each activity will be a dyad consisting of: 1) a guided series of programming steps that lead to the creation of a pre-designed app followed by, 2) a more lightly guided problem-based task that continues, tweaks, troubleshoots, or remixes the first part of the activity dyad. The design of each dyad will be based on presenting students with opportunities to use computational thinking concepts, practices, and perspectives (Brennan and Resnick, 2012). As much as possible, each activity will be designed to connect their app building experience with relevant, tangible, and when possible socially responsible themes. Rather than being designed as one-size-fits-all, these activities have been designed with our target population in mind; and they are the result of a target audience analysis, a pilot study, and review of relevant academic literature. AMAYS participants are largely African American middle school students on free and reduced lunch who are participating in a free after school program.

Activity dyads will be offered to students based on increasing difficulty, but students will have the opportunity to request them out of order if they feel they want to take on greater challenge. Students can submit completed activities in exchange for new activities, and for experience coins. Experience coins will allow individual students, teams of students, teachers, guardians, and peers to track and recognize progress, but will also allow a means for formative feedback. Coins will also be currency that students can use to purchase assets for their apps as well as school supplies.

Students can submit completed activities, redeem experience coins, communicate with team members, access digital resources, view videos created by tech sector role models, and communicate with AMAYS mentors in a custom built, password protected Web interface called AMAYS Online.

Participants who have completed a sufficient number of activities, or demonstrate adequate proficiency with App Inventor will be offered the opportunity to participate in an epic project. Epic projects will be problem based activity templates that lead teams of students through ideating, planning, and developing a mobile app-centered solution to a real-world problem that is relevant to them and possibly to their communities.

All AMAYS students will be invited to participate in AMAYS day, which will be held in the maker space at Georgia State University’s College of Education and Human Development. AMAYS day will involve motivational speeches from tech sector role models, a campus tour, lunch, and a series of lightly competitive programming and idea-pitching activities.

During the AMAYS intervention, the AMAYS project team will examine participants’ knowledge, skills, and perceptions related to computing and STEM/ICT careers using online surveys, quizzes, student artifact reviews, observations, and interviews as data sources.


For information, email:
Dr. Brendan Calandra at

NSF LogoThis material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1433280. 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.