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A Large Scale Analysis of First-Year Engineering Student Essays on Engineering Interests

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD VI: Presenting "All the Best" of the First-Year Programs Division

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.52.1 - 22.52.16



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Paper Authors


Kerry Meyers University of Notre Dame

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Kerry L. Meyers is an Associate Professional Faculty member in the College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. She received her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. She also has a B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. She has several years of industry design experience, but has since shifted her focus to engineering education with the first-year engineering program. Contact information: phone 574-631-0972, fax 574-631-8007, or email

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Benjamin Mertz University of Notre Dame

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Benjamin Mertz received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and M.S. and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame. He is currently a post-doctoral teacher and researcher at Notre Dame.

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ASEE 2011 Abstract A Large Scale Analysis of First‐Year Engineering Student Essays on Engineering Interests  There is an increasing demand for qualified engineers in the workforce, and a decreasing interest in engineering educational and professional pathways into the field.    This has prompted many studies of engineering programs as well as the motivating factors that lead students there to begin with.  What is it about engineering that interests students and motivates their initial pathway into engineering?  And were those factors significant in maintaining student engagement through the “valley of despair” to degree completion?  These were the research questions asked at the University of Notre Dame beginning in the Fall of 2007.  That cohort of students was asked as part of a homework question, in the Introduction to Engineering Systems Course at a medium sized, Midwestern Private institution, “Engineering is a very broad field of study.  What is it about engineering that interests you?”  The essay responses of 170 students were reviewed by two engineering education researchers (initially coded independently and then codes compared for final classification).  The types of responses varied, but many recurring themes emerged, including math or science interest or ability, enjoyment of problem solving, a desire to impact the world in a positive way, preparation for another professional field, among others.  Frequency counts were tabulated, and compared to retention numbers as these students are now seniors.   Response frequencies were also compared by gender and discipline.  Findings relative to the types and depth of responses are reviewed.     

Meyers, K., & Mertz, B. (2011, June), A Large Scale Analysis of First-Year Engineering Student Essays on Engineering Interests Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17334

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