June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.180.1 - 13.180.10
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
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