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Access To Engineering: An Evaluation Of Success Of A Pre Collegiate Program For African American High School Students

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.53.1 - 4.53.13

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Paper Authors

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William Darby

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Richard Grodsky

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Joseph Pietroburgo

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Nancy Shields

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

Session 2670

Access to Engineering: An Evaluation of the Success of a Pre-Collegiate Program for African-American High School Students

Nancy Shields, H. Richard Grodsky, William P. Darby, and Joseph Pietroburgo University of Missouri-St. Louis/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program Benton Hall 228 8001 Natural Bridge Road St. Louis, MO 63121


This paper is an analysis of the success of a pre-collegiate program for African-American high school students. “Access to Engineering” was sponsored by The Boeing Company, in conjunction with the University of Missouri-St. Louis/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program. It was a seven-week summer program designed to introduce 16 African-American rising seniors to the fields of mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering. The program included field trips, hands-on engineering labs, presentations by engineering faculty members, and computer activities of all kinds. Finally, students learned what it is like to work as an engineer by actually solving design problems that take more than just narrow technical considerations into account. Students experienced the team approach to problem solving that typifies both engineering education and the world in which engineers practice. Most of the students took an intermediate algebra course in the morning, and participated in the engineering activities in the afternoon.

In order to evaluate the program, several variables were measured at the beginning and the end of the program: knowledge of pre-college level algebra; academic “locus of control”; and attitudes toward the field of engineering. The attitudinal measure included items concerning commitment to the field of engineering, knowledge of the field of engineering and what engineers actually do, attitudes toward the profession of engineering, the student’s belief that he or she is capable of becoming an engineer, and attitudes toward math, chemistry, and physics. The field trips, laboratories, and the design project were also evaluated by the students. The findings revealed a highly significant increase in mathematics scores, significantly greater knowledge of the field of engineering, and greater family support to study engineering over the seven-week program. There was also a less dramatic, but positive increase in commitment to study engineering. The engineering activities were well received by the students.


Overall, undergraduate engineering enrollments have been declining, while at the same time the demand for engineers has been increasing. Many are concerned that America will not have a

Darby, W., & Grodsky, R., & Pietroburgo, J., & Shields, N. (1999, June), Access To Engineering: An Evaluation Of Success Of A Pre Collegiate Program For African American High School Students Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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