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A Hands On Approach To Increasing Engineering Diversity: Erau’s All Women Mini Baja Project

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Climate Issues for Women Students

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.50.1 - 11.50.9



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Paper Authors


Heidi Steinhauer Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach

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Heidi Steinhauer is an Instructor in the Freshmen Department at Embry Riddle. Her focus area is Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing.

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Lisa Davids Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach

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Lisa Davids is an Instructor in the Freshmen Department at Embry Riddle. Her focus area is Fluid Mechanics.

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Darris White Embry Riddle Aeronautical University

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Darris White is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Embry Riddle. His research topics include: Robotics, Vibrations, High Performance Vehicles and Control Systems.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Hands-on Approach to Increasing Engineering Diversity: ERAU’s All-Women Mini-Baja Project


While demand is typically very high for engineers, many segments of the US population are not being attracted to the engineering field. Based on recent statistics by the US Department of Labor, only eleven percent of Aerospace Engineers and only 5.6% of Mechanical Engineers are women1. Considering that 47% of the general US workforce is comprised of women, continued and increased efforts are needed to increase the number of women entering the engineering workforce.

To promote more female participation in the engineering curriculum, the Embry Riddle Mechanical Engineering program has created a student project where undergraduate women design and build an off-road race vehicle for the SAE Mini-Baja competition2. The project is integrated into the Mechanical Engineering curriculum and is funded by a generous grant from The Boeing Company. The project has increased women participation in the project by 10 times compared to last year.

This project has three goals. The first goal is to increase retention of women in the curriculum. Potential women students turn away from engineering for a variety of reasons, which are typically related to their perception of the engineering field3. Many female students view engineering as a male dominated, non-creative field that is hostile to women3. To change these perceptions, it is necessary to demonstrate that engineering can be creative and receptive to female students. Studies indicate that cooperative group projects are a positive tool for attracting and retaining women [4-6]. The baja project is open to women at all academic levels and most of the participants are underclassmen. The second goal is to increase awareness of women in engineering at the high school and middle school levels. Our all-women’s team is traveling to local middle and high schools with the baja car that they have built to promote awareness of women engineers. The third goal is to increase the number of women entering the engineering workforce. By raising community awareness of women in engineering and making the curriculum fun and exciting for women, it is our belief that more women will graduate and enter the workforce. Statistics will continue to be collected each year to measure effectiveness and a survey of the students will be conducted at the end of each year. This project is in the first year of a long term study and the goal of this paper is to establish a dialogue with other interested groups to share information about similar projects and to discuss potential metrics that can be used to evaluate the project over an extended period of time.


Embry Riddle recently formed a Mechanical Engineering program and does not have a long history of participating in mechanical competitions. Since the Mechanical Engineering program is new, accepting students for the first time in Fall 2005, an opportunity exists to create an inviting culture for women within the program from the

Steinhauer, H., & Davids, L., & White, D. (2006, June), A Hands On Approach To Increasing Engineering Diversity: Erau’s All Women Mini Baja Project Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--286

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