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My child just built a radio and we hear music!
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  • Viranga Perera,
  • George Che,
  • Kristina Davis,
  • Steven Semken,
  • Christopher Groppi,
  • Christopher Walker
Viranga Perera
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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George Che
Arizona State University
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Kristina Davis
University of California, Santa Barbara
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Steven Semken
Arizona State University
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Christopher Groppi
Arizona State University
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Christopher Walker
University of Arizona
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Informal education can be a vital part of a person’s learning experience, thus it is important to continue studying its effectiveness and consider improvements. To that end, we studied participants who built their own AM radio at three School of Earth and Space Exploration open house events at Arizona State University. For this qualitative research study, we audio recorded and transcribed interviews of 41 adults after they completed the activity. Median duration of interviews was 3 minutes. Based on their responses, we categorized participants as either a parent who brought their children (Np = 23) or an individual (Ni = 18). This is consistent with previous studies since over 50% of participants are typically parents. We further grouped each category based on their Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) background: No STEM Background (NSB), Some STEM Background (SSB) and Expert Electronics Background (EEB). STEM backgrounds of parents were evenly distributed, with each group (i.e., NSB, SSB & EEB) accounting for about 30%. In contrast, about 60% of individuals were in the SSB group. Regardless of STEM background, the vast majority of parents stated that they came to the activity because of their children. Additionally, a majority of participants stated that they learned something from the activity, with only 4 of 41 participants saying they did not learn anything. Thus, this activity provides learning opportunities for people of all STEM backgrounds. As an example, one individual in the EEB group stated, “The design of the transmitter and the receiver itself is completely complicated based on me studying for 10 years trying to understand what a transmitter and receiver is. But just in five minutes I found that I could really built [sic] it by myself.” Yet, individuals who are either in the NSB or the EEB group may be overlooking certain informal education opportunities, since together they accounted for only 40% of individuals. To improve public understanding of science, informal learning centers should continue to consider ways to make events more accessible and more enticing for people who may not be experiencing these valuable learning opportunities.