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Creation Of A Women's Machining Course At Rowan University

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Retention: Keeping the Women Students

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.346.1 - 7.346.4



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Paper Authors

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Kathryn Hollar

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Eric Constans

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Jennifer Kadlowec

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Linda Head

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 1392

Creation of a Women’s Machining Course at Rowan University

Eric Constans, Linda Head, Kathryn Hollar and Jennifer Kadlowec

Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ

Retention of female students in mechanical engineering programs remains one of the greatest challenges to engineering educators today. In the year 2000, only 14% of mechanical engineering bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women.1 Possible reasons that are often cited include lack of female role models, perception of engineering as a man’s profession and subtle differences in education and conditioning at early educational levels.

One likely explanation that is often overlooked is the relative lack of comfort many women feel around mechanical equipment, especially machine tools. Since much of traditional mechanical engineering involves the design and prototyping of mechanical equipment, this lack of comfort may manifest itself in the decision by women not to pursue mechanical engineering as a career.23 In contrast, many young men are raised in an environment where familiarity with tools and machinery is expected. In a design-intensive environment such as Rowan, a lack of prototyping experience greatly diminishes a student’s educational experience. It is through prototyping, or “seeing what works,” that students become mature designers.

One Possible Solution: A Women’s Machining Course

It was to help combat this artificial gender divide that we embarked upon the Women’s Machining Course at Rowan University. Two of our former female senior ME students approached one of us (Constans) and stated that, despite four intense years of mechanical engineering instruction, they still felt uncomfortable in the machine shop. During course projects involving prototyping they noticed that most of the machining was performed by their male counterparts. This is consistent with our own observations; in a typical team project situation a male student will almost invariably volunteer to do the fabrication, leaving the female students to do the computational or written portions of the project. It was disheartening to learn that two of our senior students thought that they had missed out on one of the Rowan hallmarks, and we quickly resolved to remedy the situation as best we could.

The solution arrived at through discussions with our female students was to conduct a Women’s Machining Course. The course was held on Tuesday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. during the Spring semester of 2001. As the name implies, only women were allowed to participate in the course; this is pedagogically consistent with the findings of Kim,4 Tidball,5 Kim and Alvarez6 and others that single-gender instruction can have a positive impact on women’s intellectual growth and self-confidence. To ensure a good turnout we enlisted the help of the local chapter of

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Hollar, K., & Constans, E., & Kadlowec, J., & Head, L. (2002, June), Creation Of A Women's Machining Course At Rowan University Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10119

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