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Background Factors Affecting Student Success in Aerospace Engineering: A Survey of Sophomore and Senior Students

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

STEM Education Tied to Aerospace Engineering

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Paper Authors


Rachel Jannette McFalls-Brown Mississippi State University

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Rachel is a second year masters student in Aerospace Engineering at Mississippi State University. She graduated from Mississippi State University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering in May 2014. Her current research interests include K-12 STEM education, first-year engineering, gifted, K-12 - First year transition, and aerospace engineering success.

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Mahnas Jean Mohammadi-Aragh Mississippi State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jean Mohammadi-Aragh is an assistant research professor with a joint appointment in the Bagley College of Engineering dean’s office and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Mississippi State University. Through her role in the Hearin Engineering First-year Experiences (EFX) Program, she is assessing the college’s current first-year engineering efforts, conducting rigorous engineering education research to improve first-year experiences, and promoting the adoption of evidence-based instructional practices. In addition to research in first year engineering, Dr. Mohammadi-Aragh investigates technology-supported classroom learning and using scientific visualization to improve understanding of complex phenomena. She earned her Ph.D. (2013) in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech, and both her M.S. (2004) and B.S. (2002) in Computer Engineering from Mississippi State. In 2013, Dr. Mohammadi-Aragh was honored as a promising new engineering education researcher when she was selected as an ASEE Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty.

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Rani W. Sullivan Mississippi State University

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Dr. Rani Warsi Sullivan is an Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Mississippi State University. Dr. Sullivan has teaching and research interests in the area of solid mechanics, aircraft materials and structures, and engineering education. Current research includes fiber optic strain sensing for development of an in-flight structural health monitoring system, characterization of the time-dependent deformation of polymer nanocomposites, and strength and vibration testing of full scale composite air vehicles.

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Danielle Grimes Mississippi State University

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Danielle is a second year master's student in Biomedical Engineering at Mississippi State University. She graduated Cum Laude from Mississippi State University with a Biological Engineering bachelor's degree in May 2014, and Danielle was inducted into the Bagley College of Engineering Student Hall of Fame in April 2014. Her research interests include females in engineering and K-12 STEM education.

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Student Paper There are numerous opportunities for K-12 students to participate in pre-college engineering experiences, such as university sponsored summer engineering programs, high school engineering courses, extra-curricular activities, and summer internships. Program administrators often report that these pre-collegiate engineering experiences are successful in increasing students’ motivation to pursue an engineering degree. This is consistent with self-efficacy theories, which tell us that when a student perceives an experience as positive, that experience can encourage the student to continue participating in that subject area. While we do know that these programs can encourage students to enroll in engineering, the lasting impact of these programs on engineering students is less clear. We provide some clarity by examining background factors of retained aerospace engineering students. The goal of this investigation is to identify the factors that increase student success in engineering to inform future programs and curricula. Research questions guiding this study include: 1) How do retained aerospace engineers describe the impact of participation in a pre-engineering program on university major choice? and 2) Which background factors affect student retention and success in Aerospace Engineering students? We surveyed sophomore and senior aerospace engineering students and analyzed the students’ self-reported background factors, engineering identity, and engineering self-efficacy. Student information such as GPA, retention information, demographics, SAT/ACT scores, and initial major of study were acquired from the university and analyzed with the self-reported data to determine significant measures of success. The results of our investigation can inform the design and implementation of pre-college engineering programs.

McFalls-Brown, R. J., & Mohammadi-Aragh, M. J., & Sullivan, R. W., & Grimes, D. (2016, June), Background Factors Affecting Student Success in Aerospace Engineering: A Survey of Sophomore and Senior Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26361

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