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Board # 111 : Middle School Girls as "Experts" to Elementary Students: A Coding Trial (Work in Progress)

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Stephanie Butler Velegol Pennsylvania State University

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Stephanie Butler Velegol has been teaching Environmental Engineering courses in the Civil Engineering Department at Penn State for 7 years. She has pioneered the use of Flipped classes to increase active leaning in the classroom. In addition she has worked with dozen on undergraduate students on a sustainable process using the seeds of the Moringa tree to produce clean water in developing communities around the world.

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Jamie Glass

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Over the past 20 years, the percentage of women earning computer science degrees has decreased from 28% to 18%. (NSF) This is a problem not only because these women are missing out on a lucrative career but also because society is losing the diversity that is required to solve complex problems in the world. There has been much work on both the recruitment of and the retention of females into the STEM fields.

Out of these scientific studies have emerged two main themes to explain the cause of this difference. The first is that women typically want to work in fields that help society. The National Academy reported that words like “Making a difference” and “engineering is essential to our health, happiness and safety” are more appealing to women and minorities. Similarly, Cheryan et al. report that “The work in computer science and engineering is seen as isolating and relatively dissociated from communal goals such as helping society and working with others”

The second reason is the stereotype that girls (and boys) have about engineering and computer science. Typically when asked how to describe an engineer or computer scientist, children will mention males, nerds, glasses, and a lack of interest in outdoor activities. Some young girls do not feel similar to these role models and therefore decide early in life not to pursue this field.

Our hypothesis is that empowering girls in middle school to reach out to girls in elementary school while being mentored by college-aged computer science majors will change the stereotype for ALL the girls involved while showing them how they can use their technical skills to help others.

In this work in progress paper we will describe our approach to this problem. The idea is to empower middle school girls to reach out to the elementary students and introduce them to coding through, Khan Academy and the Learning Resource Code and Go Robot Mouse. Along with the middle school, college-age female students who are majoring in computer science come to the elementary school and share how their experience in coding has been used to improve society. The benefit to the elementary school teacher is that these exercises will can help satisfy the engineering requirements. In addition the elementary school teacher and her students will also benefit from the authentic incorporation of STEM in their classroom. Here we will discuss preliminary results on how this intervention changed the way students think about computer science and whether the activities can fulfill these requirements.

Velegol, S. B., & Glass, J. (2017, June), Board # 111 : Middle School Girls as "Experts" to Elementary Students: A Coding Trial (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27690

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