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Assessing the Impact of Engineering Outreach Frequency on Middle-school Students' Interest in Engineering

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Research to Practice: STRAND 2- Engineering Across the Curriculum: Integration with the Arts, Social Studies, Science, and the Common Core

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.249.1 - 26.249.14



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Paper Authors


Joyce Blandino P.E. Virginia Military Institute

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Dr. Joyce Blandino received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Virginia. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Virginia Military Institute. She previously taught in the Biology Department at Washington and Lee University. Before that, she was a faculty member at James Madison University.

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Jon-Michael Hardin Virginia Military Institute

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Jon-Michael Hardin, Ph.D. Professor and Department Chair in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the Virginia Military Institute. He has degrees in mechanical engineering and theoretical and applied mechanics from the University of South Carolina and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, respectively. His areas of research interest include engineering education/pedagogy and engineering mechanics applications.

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Assessing the Impact of Engineering Outreach Frequency on Middle-school Students’ Interest in EngineeringStudies have shown that exposure to engineering experiences outside of school play alarge role in influencing students’ interest in studying engineering in the future. Inaddition, it has been reported that students in middle schools are allowed to make limitedchoices in their course selection. Thus, the middle-school years are a crucial time toengage, expose, and broaden students’ engineering experience. The goal of X College inconducting Engineers Week outreach activities is to expose middle-school students toengineering through engineering demonstrations so as to increase their interest instudying engineering in the future. Yet, very few studies have investigated whetherstudents’ level of interest in engineering continues after an initial exposure to engineeringoutreach. The purpose of this study is to examine whether a single engineering outreachexposure is enough for middle school students to develop a long-term interest inengineering, or is more frequent exposure required. An initial evaluation of this study ispresented here. Each year during National Engineers Week, about 230 middle schoolstudents from local city and county middle schools, along with their teachers and parents,visited the Engineering Division of X College for one and one-half hours of engineering-related activities. Students were from the 6th or 7th grade. Each engineering department(mechanical, civil and environmental, and electrical and computing) provided twodemonstrations for the students, with half of the demonstrations being interactive andhands-on. All the demonstrations were run or assisted by engineering students, fromfreshmen to seniors. A pre-event survey and post-event survey were given to students.Another survey was given to students who had come to the event the year before but notthe current year. Results showed that before students were exposed to the engineeringdemonstrations, only 27.7% of the students thought about studying engineering in thefuture. After demonstration exposure, 71.4% of the students (p<0.0001) thought moreabout studying engineering in the future. However, a year later, students’ interest instudying engineering in the future had dropped back down to 35.3% (p=0.572), onlyslightly higher than the pre-visit level. Per the survey results, the experience in seeing anddoing engineering was very positive for middle-school students. However, the level ofinterest in engineering did not extend into the following year without the opportunity forsubsequent engineering-related exposure. This drop in interest indicates that perhaps thefrequency with which middle school-students are exposed to engineering throughout theirmiddle-school education is essential to maintaining high student interest in engineering.In this paper the authors present and discuss the details of the current study and discussfuture studies that are planned to determine the effect of exposure frequency on studentperception of engineering as a course of study in the future.

Blandino, J., & Hardin, J. (2015, June), Assessing the Impact of Engineering Outreach Frequency on Middle-school Students' Interest in Engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23589

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