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A Retrospective Study Of The Elementary School Experiences, Influences, Skills, And Traits Of Talented Engineers

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Thinking, Reasoning, and Engineering in Elementary School

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.99.1 - 14.99.16



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Paper Authors


Michele Strutz Purdue University

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Michele L. Strutz is a doctoral student in educational psychology in Gifted and Talented Education with a specialization in Engineering Education at Purdue University. Michele completed Masters Degrees in both Gifted and Talented Education and in Curriculum and Instruction. Prior to her studies in Education, Michele worked in Marketing at Hewlett Packard, in Computer Systems Design at Arthur Andersen, and in Engineering Sulfuric Acid Plants at Monsanto. Her years of work in the high-tech field stemmed from her undergraduate degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics. Michele's research interests include stEm talent identification.

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

A Retrospective Study of Elementary School Experiences, Influences, Skills, and Traits of Talented Engineers Abstract

By 2012, an estimated 1.6 million engineers will be needed to support the U.S. job market. Based on the current pipeline, there is clearly a shortage of American engineers. This shortage is due to 2 factors: a substantial number of baby boomer engineers are retiring, and there are not enough U.S. students studying engineering today. The engineering field and characteristics of engineers are not well understood by children, teachers, guidance counselors, and parents. In order to identify students who may be a good fit for a future in engineering, the characteristics of today’s talented engineer, one who acquires specific knowledge and a professional engineering license, need to be investigated.

For this project, one research question was considered: What are the common childhood skills, traits, influences, and school experiences of talented engineers?

This retrospective study piloted an instrument designed to identify the influences, skills, and traits that drew talented engineers to engineering. Participants were solicited via a link to an on- line survey included in an email sent to 7,000 engineering students, faculty, and practicing and retired engineers; over 1,000 responded. The demographics of the participants and the frequency of their responses were tabulated.

The primary influencers identified were family, teachers and counselors, and friends, although several respondents stated that they made the decision to pursue engineering themselves without someone else’s influence. The results of this survey identified the skills and traits of individuals who chose engineering study: skills in math, science, thinking, problem solving, and analytic reasoning, and traits of being focused, persistent, ambitious, task-oriented, independent, and interested in many things. In addition to curriculum modifications to increase student awareness of engineering, parents, teachers, and counselors need a familiarity of degrees and careers in engineering in order to knowledgeably discuss this field with their children and students.


The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts that by the year 2012, the United States will need approximately 1.6 million individuals who are engineering educated and trained to fill the engineering employment demand27. The purpose of this paper is to understand the characteristics of individuals who pursued engineering.

In order to meet this future market demand and address the concern of an engineering shortage, an intervention is necessary to increase the likelihood that students with STEM-based talent will choose engineering as a college major and pursue engineering as a career. Is this nation in a place of possible future inadequate supply? There has always been a demand for engineers, however different reasons for the fluctuation in the supply11.

Strutz, M. (2009, June), A Retrospective Study Of The Elementary School Experiences, Influences, Skills, And Traits Of Talented Engineers Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4933

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