Science and engineering students from the prestigious Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, USA, have been advising National FASD’s Prevention project over the past year.
Two teams of students have worked intensively on elements of the project through WPI’s London Project Centre. While they were originally supposed to be on placement in London, the teams worked remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their work has been helpful on multiple levels:
- They have researched how public health campaigns convey scientific information
- They have informed our national polling
- They have held focus groups and conducted surveys to help ensure that our work is reaching the target demographic of 15-25 year olds
- They have helped us shape our developing social media strategy
- They have created social media content for us
“The opportunity to work with and learn from these amazingly talented and insightful young people has been invaluable to our organisation,” said National FASD’s Chief Executive Sandy Butcher.
“I myself was part of a London study group when I was a student, I know how important these inter-cultural experiences can be – look where it landed me, I have been living in the UK now for 15 years! I feel bad they got stuck with my American accent on the other end of the ‘Zooms’. We did our best to help them explore the differences between alcohol regulations in the two countries, the mysteries of many-flavoured crisps, and other aspects of British culture. We know they enjoyed their focus groups with young people. One of the students can’t wait to get to the UK to visit Tesco, though we aren’t sure they are ready yet to try Marmite.”
National FASD would like to thank both teams of students and their advisors. Collectively, they have spent hundreds of hours advising our project at a key time. Finding ways to convey these issues to our target demographic of 15-25 year olds hasn’t been done in the UK before. Their work will hopefully have an impact on many people’s lives.
Team one included students majoring in computer science, biomedical engineering, psychological sciences, and mathematical sciences: Cosette Domkofski, Molly Folino, Katie Lin, Laura Staugler and Rachelle Wailes. Their advisors were Sarah Stanlick and Beth Eddy. Team one conducted background investigations and developed a research proposal from October to December 2020, and then worked full-time on their project from January – March 2021. Team leader Rachelle Wailes said: “This experience working with National FASD for my IQP has been one of the most impactful experiences of my education. My time working on this project has inspired me in countless ways.”
Team One aimed to develop an understanding of how to educate young people about the risks of alcohol use in pregnancy in order to instruct an effective marketing campaign. They collected quantitative data through surveys and qualitative data through focus groups which was used to illustrate the specific campaign design.
Here are examples from their proposed campaign:
Team two included a diverse group of majors including biomedical engineering, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, and interactive media game design: Melanie Presseau, McKenna Finken, Meghan Scruton, and Erin Marczewski. Their academic advisor was Jean-Michael Davis.
Team two did background research and developed their project from March to May 2021, and then worked full-time on project implementation from May to July 2021. Team member Meghan Scruton said that the experience has been an “… amazing opportunity to work with you and everyone else over the last 5 months. I have learned a ton, and this experience has really opened my eyes to future job and school opportunities”.
- Create a series of educational cartoons directed at young adults in the UK from the ages of 15 to 20
- Create a survey to evaluate and revise the effectiveness of the cartoon materials
- Develop a dissemination strategy to post the revised campaign materials on the National FASD social media outlets
The team created novel cartoons called The Conceivables. They conducted focus groups which proved vital to understanding how the content would be received amongst the age-range, but also helped to iron-out some cross-cultural differences, “We got insightful feedback on the cultural aspect of our cartoon, which was helpful in making it more relevant to the UK. We were able to not only incorporate slang from the UK throughout our dialogue, but also use scenery that resonated with young adults in the UK. This helped with making the dialogue less judgemental in hopes for a more supportive environment.”
See The Conceivables in action:
The group envisaged that these educational cartoons would help teenagers in the UK have a better understanding of FASD and the risk of alcohol harm during pregnancy, with the hope that this knowledge could prevent FASD in future generations.
You can now check out The Conceivables in action by clicking here!