Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education




Learning & Instruction EdD

First Advisor

Xornam S Apedoe

Second Advisor

Kevin Oh

Third Advisor

David M. Donahue


Even though there has been a narrowing of the gender gap in STEM, there is still a pronounced gap in the physical sciences, engineering, and computer science. Females who persist in these fields have a strong STEM identity, including developing specific STEM interests. Females can develop STEM identity through long-term, active involvement in extracurricular STEM programs. Extracurricular STEM programs significantly impact the persistence of females in the STEM pipeline. This case study examined the effect of Science Olympiad, an extracurricular STEM program, on current high school students and alumnae’s perceptions of their STEM identity and personal specific STEM interest. Potential participants were recruited from a Bay Area High School Science Olympiad program, both current students and alums. After completing an online survey, 17 participants were selected to participate. In individual interviews or a focus group, the participants reflected on their experiences in Science Olympiad and how those experiences influenced their STEM identity and personal specific STEM interests. The participants shared that a collaborative, team-focused atmosphere was most critical in developing their STEM identity. Additionally, exposure to and deep exploration of various STEM topics were essential components of developing personal specific STEM interests. The participants shared the features of the studied Science Olympiad program, which were most influential in encouraging their long-term, active participation and their frustrations. The program’s key component was the program’s team and partner-focused nature, which has led to the development of a strong community of practice. Additionally, the participants described attributes of STEM people. While they related the traditional characteristics of ambition, smartness, and problem solvers, the participants also described the charitable nature of STEM. While the participants acknowledged that those who work in STEM fields might not be there for the sole reason of helping others, they felt STEM, in its very nature, is a humanitarian field. A strong STEM identity is crucial for females to stay in the STEM pipeline. Participating in a program, such as Science Olympiad, that is more collaborative than competitive allows the females a safe space to develop STEM identity and personal specific STEM interests.