June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
13.95.1 - 13.95.9
A Racecar Design-Build-Test Project for Low Income, First Generation pre-College Students
There is much interest in developing curricula to help K-12 students understand what an engineer does in order to further interest in engineering1. Students have misconceptions on what engineers do and how they impact society. This paper presents results of how a small group (N=12) of high school junior’s attitudes towards engineering changed based on an introduction to electrical engineering summer course where students built and tested a computer controlled radio control (RC) car. The students—the first generation to consider attending college—were drawn from low-income households in the six-county area surrounding an Oklahoma State University. The purpose of the six week intervention, part of a campus-wide Upward Bound program was to give students a realistic view of engineering as a career option.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention two assessments were used. A pre-post Draw an Engineer1 with a written component was used to measure perceptions of engineers. More students self-identified themselves as engineers following the intervention. Overall the draw an engineer shows an increased understanding of what is involved in engineering. Post-intervention interviews also examined students’ changes in attitudes about engineering. Interview data indicates increases in student intentions to pursue engineering and that the format of the intervention gave students a realistic view of engineering.
The Upward Bound program is one of six federal TRIO educational outreach programs2. The program targets high school students from low-income families or from families in which neither parent attended college. The stated goal of the federal Upward Bound program “is to increase the rate at which participants complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from institutions of postsecondary education.”2
At Oklahoma State University, the Upward Bound program offers a pre-college summer experience. For six weeks over the summer students live on campus during the week for a variety of academic, cultural and social activities. Students attend classes modeled after college courses. Students are encouraged to attend the program for consecutive years and Upward Bound offers courses aimed at the different grade levels of the students. Courses are taught by college faculty and graduate students. Following the summer program mentors—college students and faculty—tutor and counsel participating students at their schools in the surrounding community. Following the summer program the progress of pre-college students is tracked to help them prepare for college.
For three years of this program no engineering courses were offered to students. This paper reports on the first iteration of an engineering course offered to students in the fourth year of the Upward Bound Math and Science program. The sample reported here consisted of N = 12 students. The sample was not diverse ethnically; only one student was not white. Nine of the
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