Latina/o Adolescents' Funds of Knowledge Related to Engineering




According to a growing body of research, many Latinas/os experience dissonance between their everyday cultural practices and the cultural practices prevalent in engineering. This dissonance contributes to many Latinas/os' sense that engineering is “not for me.”


This study sought to explore the meaning in the relationship between engineering cultural practices and the funds of knowledge found in Latina/o adolescents' familial, community, and recreational settings.


This ethnographic study followed seven groups of Latina/o adolescents as they identified problems in their communities and solved them through engineering design processes. Using a modified form of constant comparative analysis, we analyzed three data sources: individual interviews, observations of group meetings, and concurrent or retrospective protocols. We developed a coding scheme that categorized the participants' funds of knowledge as they related to engineering.


The participants' everyday skills and bodies of knowledge aligned with engineering practices. Specifically, their familial, community, and recreational funds of knowledge mapped onto the application of engineering design processes, systems thinking, ethical and empathetic reasoning, knowledge of production and processing, use of communication and construction tools, scientific and mathematical knowledge, and teamwork.


Engineering instruction for Latina/o adolescents can be reconceptualized as a third space of learning and knowing where adolescents' everyday familial, community, and recreational practices are actively solicited and connected with the cultural practices of engineering.