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Board 20: Engagement in Practice: First-year Students as “Engineer for a Day” for Middle School Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Community Engagement Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Cynthia Helen Carlson P.E., Ph.D. Merrimack College Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Carlson worked as a water resources engineer for 10 years prior to earning her doctorate, contributing to improved water management in communities within the United States, Middle East, and Singapore. She has been a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) since 2002. Dr. Carlson’s research interests are broadly characterized as ‘how civil engineering impacts public health’, and include storm water management, modeling environment/engineering/social interfaces, combined sewer overflows, and improved communication and education of engineering concepts.

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Anne Pfitzner Gatling Merrimack College

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I taught for 10 years as an elementary teacher in Alaska. I won the Presidential Award for Science Teaching, was an Einstein Fellow in Senator Lieberman's office where I worked on the teacher quality portion of the Higher Education Reauthorization. Now as a professor, I have been the co-director of the STEM Education program for Early Childhood and Elementary Majors for 8 years.

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Katherine Marie Donell

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Our small, liberal-arts college has a long standing tradition of service learning, and standing relationships with local after-school programs in under-served communities through our Service Learning Center. However, these service experiences have not been integrated into the engineering curriculum. The motivation to integrate engineering majors into this particular service learning project is to demonstrate to engineering students that :

- engineering careers can provide great benefit to local communities, - although just starting college studies, first-year engineers can mentor youth who may never have met an engineer, and - communication skills are crucial to practicing engineering.

For the past several years, first year students majoring in civil and mechanical engineering have been required to participate in these afterschool programs as “Engineer for a Day.” One engineering major from the class accompanies several students from other majors to an after school program to assist running a STEM activity. The importance of communication in engineering, and of practicing the communication of complex engineering topics to a general audience, is emphasized throughout the course. The engineering students complete a reflection upon return to campus, discuss the experience in class, and use the skills practiced in other projects throughout the semester.

The reflections and other collected data show that the engineering majors benefit from seeing themselves as mentors and as having something to share with the community, as well as getting out of their comfort zone and their own culture-bubble. The middle-school students benefit from meeting near-peers who are willing to give of themselves and their time, receiving an aspirational view of the future, and being exposed to STEM and STEM fields. Our next steps are to further integrate the service learning program into the engineering curriculum, with more substantial reflection and synthesis, and in mentoring each other through the experience.

Carlson, C. H., & Gatling, A. P., & Donell, K. M. (2019, June), Board 20: Engagement in Practice: First-year Students as “Engineer for a Day” for Middle School Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32294

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