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Assessment Of Gender Differences On Ratings Of Engineering Learning Modules In Middle School Youth In An After School Setting

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Gender and Accessibility Issues in K-12 Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.285.1 - 12.285.19



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Paper Authors


Glenda Kelly Duke University

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Glenda T. Kelly, Ph.D., Research Associate, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, serves as Program Manager and Evaluator for K-12 Engineering Outreach Initiatives. She has consulted to the Talent Identification at Duke, was formerly Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina, and received her Ph.D. from Duke University in 1982. She coordinates and/or evaluates several Duke K-12 engineering outreach programs (Math Understanding through the Science of Life-MUSCLE, Math Understanding through Science Integrated with Curriculum (MUSIC), Techtronics Program) and is currently co-investigator on a grant developing computer software to teach immunology to middle school students. Her special interests include developing ways to teach science/engineering to engage diverse populations especially females and underrepresented minorities.

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Paul Klenk Duke University

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Paul A. Klenk, Ph.D., is a Visiting Scholar at Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, developing K-12 engineering education programs. He received a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from the Pratt school of Engineering at Duke University in 2006. He is the Duke Project Director for the TeachEngineeirng Digital Library Project and was formerly the Graduate Student Coordinator for the Technotronics After-School Program. In addition to his K-12 outreach work, he has researched novel therapeutic radiation delivery methods for cancer treatment and utilized lock-in thermographic techniques for imaging photovoltaic cells.

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Gary Ybarra Duke University

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Gary A. Ybarra, Ph.D. is a Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University. He is the principal investigator of several K-12 engineering outreach programs as part of his Engineering K-PhD program at Duke. He received a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from North Carolina State University in 1992 and has been on the ECE faculty at Duke University since 1993. In addition to his K-12 outreach work, his research interests include microwave imaging and electrical impedance tomography.

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Lee Anne Cox Duke University

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Lee Anne Cox, B.S., is a second year graduate student in the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. She was awarded an NSF funded GK-12 Engineering Teaching Fellowship through the MUSIC Program (Math Understanding through Science Integrated with Curriculum) at Duke. For the past two years, in partnership with K-8 classroom teachers, she has taught hands-on, engaging science and engineering lessons to grades 3, 5, and 6 at Bethel Hill Charter School in Roxboro, North Carolina as part of the MUSIC program. In May of 2007, Ms. Cox will receive both a Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering, as well as a Masters in Engineering Management. She also holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics from Texas Christian University. Upon graduation, she will be working for Raytheon Corporation in Sudbury, Massachusetts as a Systems Engineer in Program Excellence.

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Assessment of Gender Differences on Ratings of Engineering Learning Modules in Middle-School Youth in an After-school Setting


For both genders characteristics of effective STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) after-school programs include opportunities for youth to build competencies, form bonds with peers and staff, and participate in program decisions. After-school program characteristics found to foster STEM interest and persistence of girls in particular across age, race and ethnic diversity include collaborative, hands-on activities, mentoring, parent and community support, emphasis on practical applications, and teaching of science or engineering in a more holistic and social context 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. In addition, programs for girls that combine hands-on activities, role models, mentoring, and career exploration have been shown to improve girls' self-confidence and interest in STEM courses and careers in particular. This paper presents statistical analyses of gender differences between youths’ ratings of six engineering modules implemented in the Techtronics after-school program at Rogers Herr Middle School in Durham, North Carolina.


Techtronics, an after- school engineering enrichment program for middle school students, has incorporated many of these characteristics as described above to maximize appeal for both genders while encouraging at-risk middle school students to pursue careers in engineering and science. An extension of the K-PhD Program at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, it is a partnership between the Pratt School of Engineering and Rogers-Herr Middle School in Durham, NC. Program goals include improving student competence and enthusiasm for science and engineering, and stimulating interest in pursuing careers in engineering and science with a special focus on minority and female students. Students are immersed in real-world engineering design challenges and asked to apply scientific principles they are learning as part of the N.C. Standard Course of Study to solve real-world problems. To sustain interest across genders, Techtronics links curriculum content to human applications, emphasizes helpfulness of technologies in solving problems for humanity, utilizes hands-on activities, provides both male and female role models through undergraduate and graduate Engineering Teaching Fellows, involves parents via Saturday demonstrations at the university, and encourages both boys and girls to ask questions and brainstorm designs in teams.

This paper presents statistical analyses of gender differences between ratings of six Techtronics engineering modules (Lego Robotics, Bridges, Heart Monitors (EKG), Solar Energy, Towers, and AM Radios) and provides in-depth assessment of these differences based on qualitative data and subsequent student interviews designed to identify factors contributing to the differential appeal and learning characteristics of these modules across gender. Based on these results, recommendations are made for future research studies as the Techtronics program expands over the next several years. In addition, insights into optimal ways to engage and inspire middle school students of both genders to engage in K-12 engineering education programs are offered.

Kelly, G., & Klenk, P., & Ybarra, G., & Cox, L. A. (2007, June), Assessment Of Gender Differences On Ratings Of Engineering Learning Modules In Middle School Youth In An After School Setting Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2404

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