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An Extended Engagement Effort

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Diversity and K-12 Issues

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.180.1 - 13.180.10



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Paper Authors


Nancy Denton Purdue University

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Nancy L. Denton, PE, is a professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology at Purdue University and Associate Department Head. She teaches controls and machinery diagnostics. She has been a leader in the Women in Engineering, Mechanics, and Engineering Technology Divisions of ASEE. She is a member of ASME and the Vibration Institute, where she serves on the ISO certified vibration analyst exam committee.

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

An Extended Engagement Effort Abstract

More than twenty years after the enactment of Title IX, women continue to be underrepresented in numerous career fields grounded in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Design competitions offer one approach to increasing interest in technology and engineering. Faculty, university students, industry supporters, and community representatives have joined together for several years to encourage student teams from a Midwestern middle school to participate in ToyChallenge™, a relatively low-cost, “girl-friendly” design competition organized by SallyRideScience™.

The paper discusses the motivating factors that led engineering technology faculty, university students, and middle school teachers to take on responsibility for coaching middle school design teams. The process for forming the teams, garnering industry support, and developing original working prototypes with sixth through eighth grade students is presented. Challenges encountered through the extended engagement collaboration are considered, and successes resulting from the ongoing effort are shared.

Background and Motivation: Historically, children matured in a society where their future was predefined by factors beyond their control, particularly their parents’ place in society and their gender. Immigration offered one means for men to move toward self-determination; educational opportunity (such as the G.I Bill following World War II) established another. Within the United States, men have enjoyed relative freedom of choice throughout its existence, legally and in terms of cultural acceptance (assuming their choice is not a traditionally female role). Beginning in the mid-19th century, U.S. women and their male advocates have sought to legally mandate the same level of opportunity for self-determination for women. Major legislative successes in this arena include the right to vote, the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Education Amendments, including Title IX. Title IX requires schools to provide equivalent and/or equal educational opportunities for girls and boys, impacting admissions rules, availability of sports, and access to all classes. Girls were no longer barred from drafting and material processing classes, and boys were able to learn cooking, sewing, and clerical skills as part of the high school curriculum. Thirty years after Title IX was enacted, college enrollments of 2001-02 show male and female students admitted to medical and law schools nearly match their mix within the general population. Female engineering enrollments have grown by similar multiples, but unfortunately must overcome a much greater deficit to achieve gender equity1.

For organizations, there is a participation level where underrepresented groups reach a point where their involvement is self-sustaining, or achieve critical mass. According to Professor Monique Frize, former Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Women in Engineering Chair, the point at which a population moves from underrepresented to reaching critical mass is approximately 33%2. Although some engineering disciplines are approaching

Denton, N. (2008, June), An Extended Engagement Effort Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4136

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