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Board 131: Engaging Underrepresented Students in Engineering through Targeted and Thematic Summer Camp Content (Work in Progress, Diversity)

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Amy L. Warren University of Arkansas

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Amy is the Assistant Director of Outreach and Summer Programs at the University of Arkansas College of Engineering. Prior to taking this position, she was the program coordinator for BGREEN (Building a Grass Roots Environmental Education Network) and a NSF GK-12 Graduate STEM Fellow at the University of Missouri. She is currently completing her PhD in Biological Anthropology at the University of Missouri with a research focus on using computational modeling to simulate prehistoric population dynamics in response to environmental variability.

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Hayley A. Chandler

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Madeline Ludwig University of Arkansas

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Katelyn M. Heath University of Arkansas


Eric Specking University of Arkansas Orcid 16x16

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Eric Specking serves as the Director of Undergraduate Recruitment for the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas. He directs the engineering recruitment office, most of the College of Engineering’s K-12 outreach programs, and the college's summer programs. Specking is actively involved in the Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management divisions and is the current Chair of the ASEE Diversity Committee. Specking received a B.S. in Computer Engineering and a M.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Arkansas and is currently working on a PhD in Industrial Engineering at the University of Arkansas.

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The Soaring High in Engineering (SHE) Camp was designed to provide a weeklong engineering immersion experience for female students who recently completed 7th and 8th grade. In previous years, student participants were exposed to a variety of unrelated activities intended to increase interest, understanding, and excitement about the various fields of engineering offered by the University of ___. Summer 2017 piloted a new camp format that used application data to determine interest and goals of the potential participants in order to drive content development by the predominately undergraduate female staff. We hoped to asses whether camp outcomes, including interest in engineering or other STEM careers, were increased by 1) developing camp content with self-reported student interests in mind and 2) developing camp content around a single, real world theme.

The 2017 applicant pool for the SHE camps was diverse. In addition to open online applications for all female students interested in the camp, a targeted mailing campaign also aimed to recruit underrepresented students from a nearby school district. There were 58 applicants for 40 open spots and 54% of applicants belonged to underrepresented ethnic groups (40% Hispanic, 9% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 5% Black). Among these applications, we found that 53% of Hispanic and 23% of White student applicants mentioned interest in biomedical engineering, medicine, or becoming doctors or nurses in response to at least one application question.

With this application data in mind and the prevalence of engineering education literature suggesting that women, especially women of color, show increased interest in engineering if the content is centered around a socially-relevant or real world theme, we developed our camp: “Outbreak!: Engineering an Epidemic,” with inspiration from a similar Engineering is Elementary curricular unit. Instead of focusing solely on biomedical engineering content, however, we created activities that also highlighted aspects of biological, chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical engineering in addition to activities that incorporated computer science concepts and effective STEM communication strategies. Prior to camp, students were given a survey to ascertain interest in, understanding of, and excitement about science, math, technology, and various fields of engineering. At the end of the camp session, students were given the same survey. Survey analyses reveal that the student participants’ responses increased in all evaluated areas after their camp experience.

The success of the 2017 SHE camp has encouraged us to continue the practice of developing themed, problem-based camps for all camps we host. We present our SHE camp preliminary results as a Work-in-Progress with the hopes of engaging other organizations who host similar programs in dialogues about content-development strategies used to recruit and engage underrepresented students, additional camp-appropriate themes around which activities from diverse fields of engineering can be incorporated, and developing evaluation tools that more explicitly assess the goals outlined above.

Warren, A. L., & Chandler, H. A., & Ludwig, M., & Heath, K. M., & Specking, E. (2018, June), Board 131: Engaging Underrepresented Students in Engineering through Targeted and Thematic Summer Camp Content (Work in Progress, Diversity) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29921

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