A national need exists to effectively engage women and people categorized as minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and career paths. Given the minimal existence of standards and accreditation boards for engineering design and holistic engineering practice in K–12 contexts, we must better understand how said engineering design and holistic engineering practice affects the learning and identity formation of K–12 students. Here, 50 rising 9th–12th grade girls are exposed to either a socio-ethics enhanced engineering curriculum or a standard engineering curriculum through a week-long STEM summer camp. Qualitative methods are used to conduct a thematic analysis on the engineering language used by students in each curriculum group. Significant differences in language and attitudes towards engineering and the practice of STEM subjects is observed through the incorporation of ethics and humanities into a standard model engineering curriculum. The study presented in this paper demonstrates that students have a tendency towards describing scientific ideas through abstract terms, while a group who participated in the social science integrated camp tended to describe scientific ideas using social-emotional terms. Lastly, students who participated in the camp with integrated social sciences displayed an expanded view and sense of responsibility for the society for which their science is developed to serve. These results could have implications on how STEM subjects are communicated to attract and sustain student interest.
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