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Program Description

Overview STUDIO 3D (Digital, Design, and Development) is designed to bring advanced computer technology projects to economically disadvantaged youth in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The program aims to (1) provide opportunities for low-income and at-risk young people to work on creative projects using advanced computer technology; (2) encourage and nurture positive relationships between youth participants and adult mentors in the areas of art, science, technology, and engineering; and (3) provide resources and support for community centers to use computers in educationally effective ways.
Start Date completed (1999–2003)
Scope local
Type after school, summer/vacation, mentoring
Location urban
Setting community-based organization, public school
Participants elementary through high school students (ages 10–18); one site served youth ages 17–22
Number of Sites/Grantees four in 2002 and six in 2003
Number Served approximately 400 annually in 1999–2003
Components STUDIO 3D targeted young people between the ages of 10 and 18 years old living in inner-city neighborhoods. Special emphasis was placed on three populations: girls, youth of color, and young people from economically disadvantaged groups. Mentors, staff, and volunteers provided youth with intensive support in learning and applying advanced digital design technologies. Each site engaged youth in digital design projects in an open workshop environment (i.e., youth worked both independently and in groups). Mentors acted as adult role models, providing youth with the opportunity to see them working on projects and learning. Mentors worked on their own projects and invited youth to join in, as opposed to simply providing support and help to youth.
Funding Level approximately $450,000 in 1999–2003
Funding Sources the United States Department of Education Community Technology Centers program


Overview STUDIO 3D contracted with the University of Minnesota Department of Educational Policy and Administration, Evaluation Studies Program to assess the program’s impact on student learning and provide information for program improvement.
Evaluators Boris B. Volkov and Jean A. King, University of Minnesota Department of Educational Policy and Administration, Evaluation Studies Program
Evaluations Profiled Report of STUDIO 3D Project Evaluation
Evaluations Planned none
Report Availability Volkov, B. B., & King, J. A. (2003). Report of STUDIO 3D project evaluation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. Available at (Acrobat file).


Evaluation Boris B. Volkov
Jean A. King
Evaluation Studies Program
Department of Educational Policy and Administration
University of Minnesota
330 Wulling Hall
86 Pleasant Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0221
Tel: 612-624-6331
Program Keith Braafladt
Director of the Learning Technologies Center
Science Museum of Minnesota
120 West Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102
Tel: 651-221-2536
Fax: 651-221-4528
Profile Updated December 20, 2004

Evaluation: Report of STUDIO 3D Project Evaluation

Evaluation Description

Evaluation Purpose To collect information on the following areas: (1) effective ways of recruiting and retaining youth in the program; (2) impact of participation on participating youth, and the ways in which youth participants use program resources in their learning; (3) impact of laptop computer use on student academic achievement; (4) students’ needs, concerns, and opinions about the project’s technology as a facilitator of learning; (5) efficient ways for the program to record and track student impact over time in the areas of student knowledge, skills, and attitudes; and (6) aspects of the overall program that are most and least successful and why.
Evaluation Design Non-Experimental: The evaluation was based on data collected from each site through site observations, youth participant surveys, staff interviews, and analysis of written student work.
Data Collection Methods Document Review: Evaluators collected and reviewed program documents such as program goals, expected outcomes, and project status updates. In addition, the evaluators examined written and online journals created by youth participants and mentors. Youth journal entries were analyzed to understand youth’s ideas about their projects, youth’s methods for planning their projects, youth perceptions of their project, and perceptions of what worked and what did not. Staff and mentors’ journal entries were also analyzed to understand their approach to working with youth, perceptions of the STUDIO 3D program, activities within the program, and feelings about their work.

Interviews/Focus Groups: Evaluators conducted a total of 14 interviews with staff who coordinated the project in order to assess their perceptions of the program, its impacts on youth, and its strengths and weaknesses. In addition, evaluators conducted brief “fact-finding” talks with staff and students (e.g., does your family own a computer, do you have Internet access at home, what grade are you in school, and with what racial or ethnic group do you identify?), as well as individual informal student and mentor interviews.

Observation: Evaluators conducted site visits at all sites, during which they observed and spoke with youth participants, their mentors, and site coordinators.

Surveys/Questionnaires: A written survey was administered to youth participants to assess youth perceptions of the program. A total of 96 students completed surveys. These 96 were those available at the administration of the survey (out of approximately 300 students dispersed throughout the final year of the project).
Data Collection Timeframe Data were collected in the spring and summer of 2003.

Formative/Process Findings

Activity Implementation Site observations revealed that youth were participating in project-based activities using technology, e.g., digital video editing, web publishing, art modeling, and animation.

Site observations revealed that STUDIO 3D sites were safe environments for youth participants, where they could explore project activities, rather than “being taught to.” Evaluators noted that students began to take control over their learning, especially since participation was voluntary.

Many of the STUDIO 3D sites implemented their project-based activities differently. One site used a youth mentor team to build collaborative project teams. The team leaders were able to draw students into activities who before had shown little or no interest. Other sites combined low-technology tools (e.g., LEGOs, paint, and glue) with high-technology tools (e.g., motors, sensors, and cameras) to help students learn to embrace technology.

Some staff members reported that it was challenging to come up with continual projects that were focused solely around the concepts of digital technology.
Program Context/Infrastructure The majority of students reported that using technology in STUDIO 3D offered them opportunities that were not available elsewhere, such as access to technology, opportunities to think and learn, and the ability to design things by themselves in a hands-on environment.

Observations revealed that mentors provided an atmosphere of fun and that this was a program strength that got youth excited about the program experience.
Program-School Linkages Interviews, surveys, and observations suggested that the linkages between STUDIO 3D and the regular school day were enhanced when project leaders worked directly with classroom teachers.

Interviews with administrators revealed that embedding the program in a school was beneficial in terms of solving transportation issues and avoiding conflicts with parents’ abilities to get children there and home.
Recruitment/Participation Surveys indicated that across all sites, the program served a diverse group of participants in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic background.

When parents were asked about the kinds of services they were looking for in an after school program, they identified structured environment, supervision, open-ended nature of the projects, and the opportunity for their children to meet other people while doing things independently.

The most prominent reasons why youth participated in the program included interest in their projects, adults and friends at the program, materials and technology that they could not afford or did not have access to, and fun activities that were active and exciting.

Mentors reported that the drop-in nature of the program was a challenge, in that it became hard to maintain consistent attendance from a large number of youth and therefore to have meaningful interactions with youth participants.

Staff considered the lack of minority representatives and mentors to be a hindrance to recruiting minority participants.
Satisfaction According to an open-ended survey question about the primary attractiveness of the STUDIO 3D program, 17% of the respondents reported liking STUDIO 3D because it was fun. Another 7% liked to create something new or simply to build. Other reasons mentioned included a sense of accomplishment, challenges and opportunities in activities, and interacting and doing things with peers and friends.

According to surveys, 68% of students could not think of anything that they didn’t like about the program or something that could be better.
Staffing/Training Respondents at most sites found their mentors to be helpful, knowledgeable, nice, and understanding. They also reported that mentors did things in a fun and different way than other adults they had experience with.

All respondents commented on the benefits of the way mentors can connect and relate to young participants, since children got to communicate with adults who treated them like grown-up people in an informal setting.

Mentors reported the development of a number of deep nurturing relationships between mentors and students.

According to mentors, giving youth the chance to also be mentors instead of relying only on adults was a program strength.

Staff indicated that finding good teachers to work with the youth was one of the best components of the program.

Staff and volunteers reported that the program required a significant amount of their time, which they found challenging. They reported a desire for more reflection time.”
Systemic Infrastructure In total, 47% of students surveyed thought that they could do similar things to STUDIO 3D in other places in their community, whereas 32% did not believe so. While there were places where students had access to the technology available at STUDIO 3D, many other programs lacked the closely monitored experience (e.g., a library in the community might have access to technology, but did not provide mentors to assist students in using this technology).

Summative/Outcome Findings

Academic According to some staff and mentors, the project made some students excited to come to school.

According to some teachers, the program motivated English-as-a-second-language students to speak English and develop their English language skills.
Youth Development Project and youth mentors reported that the STUDIO 3D program taught youth participants problem-solving skills and a comfort level with technology, which they thought would later impact students’ critical thinking and logic skills.

According to project mentors, the program brought increased familiarity with a wide array of science and technology concepts and empowered youth to see computers as a tool that they could use to continually improve. Mentors reported that this led to youth learning larger notions of problem solving, which they hoped would contribute to the development of critical thinking and logic skills.

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project