June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Diversity and Corporate Member Council
26.305.1 - 26.305.14
Building Diversity in Engineering Competition Teams by Modeling Industry Best- PracticeEach year, thousands of students compete in student, experiential-learning, engineeringcompetition teams (SELECT) to practice and improve their engineering skills. SELECT attractstremendous resources from both industry and academia. Despite considerable efforts over thepast decades to recruit and retain women and minorities in engineering, female and minoritystudents still comprise a small portion of SELECT participants.This paper stems from a multi-year research project to identify and explain which factorscontribute to cultures of inclusion or exclusion among various SELECT. We used semi-structured interviews with local SELECT team members and also team members at nationalcompetitions to explore their motivations in joining the team and their experiences as teammembers. We found a team culture constructed around an extraordinary time commitmentcontributed to exclusion of students with significant work or family responsibilities. Othercultural elements limited the participation of women.In the next phase of the project, we constructed a survey to determine the generalizability ofthese findings and enhance our understanding of cultures within SELECT. Fifty-nine questionswere organized around topics such as team operations, leadership, team experiences andperceptions. We piloted the survey at a national competition to 30 students from 15 teamsrepresenting 15 universities. Almost all of the students (28 of 30) were majors in STEMdisciplines and most (22 of 30) were in mechanical engineering.Overall, the survey showed most teams have low participation of female and minority students,even when normalized for engineering enrollment. About two-thirds of the teams hadunderrepresentation of female students and just over half of the teams had underrepresentation ofminority students. We identified several factors that might be driving the low participation ofwomen and minorities. First, just over half of the respondents were recruited to the team throughinvitation by a friend who was already on the team, thus limiting membership to those in thenetwork of current or former team members. Second, almost all respondents said the primaryreason people left the team is because they couldn’t afford the time commitment. Specifically, 19of 30 team members reported spending more than 20 hours per week on team activities with 9team members working over 40 hours per week on team projects. In addition, many teamsexperienced minimal faculty advisor engagement, with 14 team members indicating that theiradvisors spent less than 1 hour per week with the team, with little opportunity to offer guidanceon team operations.To open SELECT to broader student participation, SELECT should follow industry best-practicefor equal opportunity in recruiting new team members and offering current team membersflexible work schedules. Industry should closely partner with sponsoring professionalorganizations to guide the development of policies and processes that are aligned with industrypractice. Faculty advisors should also be actively engaged in team mentoring to ensure thesuccessful implementation of those procedures. Leveraging academia-industry collaboration is astep towards building a team culture that is appealing to all students.
Pan, R. C., & Shehab, R. L., & Foor, C. E., & Trytten, D. A., & Walden, S. E. (2015, June), Building Diversity in Engineering Competition Teams by Modeling Industry Best-Practice Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23644
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