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Critical Questions to which Engineering Students Need Answers

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovatiive Methods to Teach Engineering to URMs

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.367.1 - 25.367.10

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Paper Authors


Armando A. Rodriguez Arizona State University

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Prior to joining the ASU faculty in 1990, Dr. Armando A. Rodriguez worked at MIT, IBM, AT&T Bell Laboratories and Raytheon Missile Systems. He has also consulted for Eglin Air Force Base, Boeing Defense and Space Systems, Honeywell and NASA. He has published over 200 technical papers in refereed journals and conference proceedings. He has authored three engineering texts. Dr. Rodriguez has given over 70 invited presentations - 13 plenary - at international and national forums, conferences and corporations. Since 1994, he has directed an extensive engineering mentoring-research program that has served over 300 students. Dr. Rodriguez' research interests include: control of nonlinear distributed parameter, and sampled-data systems; modeling, simulation, animation, and real-time control (MoSART) of Flexible Autonomous Machines operating in an uncertain Environment (FAME); control of bio-economic systems, renewable resources, and sustainable development; control of semiconductor, (hypersonic) aerospace, robotic, and low power electronic systems. Dr. Rodriguez has received the following honors: AT&T Bell Laboratories Fellowship; Boeing A.D. Welliver Fellowship; ASU Engineering Teaching Excellence Award; IEEE International Outstanding Advisor Award; White House Presidential Excellence Award for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring; Ralf Yorque Memorial Best Paper Prize. Dr. Rodriguez has also served on various national technical committees and panels. He is currently serving on the following National Academies panels: Survivability and Lethality Analysis, Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Autonomous Systems. Personal Web site:

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Mary R. Anderson-Rowland Arizona State University

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Mary Anderson-Rowland is the PI of an NSF STEP grant to work with five non-metropolitan community colleges to produce more engineers, especially female and underrepresented minority engineers. She also directs two academic scholarship programs, including one for transfer students. An Associate Professor in computing, informatics, and systems design engineering, she was the Associate Dean of Student Affairs in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU from 1993-2004. Anderson-Rowland was named a top 5% teacher in the Fulton Schools of Engineering for 2009-2010. She received the WEPAN Engineering Educator Award 2009, ASEE Minorities Award 2006, the SHPE Educator of the Year 2005, and the National Engineering Award in 2003, the highest honor given by AAES. In 2002, she was named the Distinguished Engineering Educator by the Society of Women Engineers. She has more than 175 publications, primarily in the areas of recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minority engineering and computer science students. Her awards are based on her mentoring of students, especially women and underrepresented minority students, and her research in the areas of recruitment and retention. A SWE and ASEE Fellow, she is a frequent speaker on career opportunities and diversity in engineering.

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Critical Questions to Which Engineering Students Need AnswersThere are many questions for which prospective or current engineering and computer sciencestudents are seeking or should be seeking answers. In this paper the term “engineering” shallinclude both engineering and computer science. These critical questions cover many areasincluding: why a BS in engineering, why engineering, how is an engineering discipline chosen,how is an undergraduate degree in engineering financed, why pursue an engineering degree at aparticular institution, how important is a mentor, how important is research, what important skillsare required of an engineer, how important is graduate school, what is an MS thesis, why get aPhD, how is a company started, and what factors should be considered in choosing a job. Eachof these areas includes many sub-questions.A list of 136 questions was compiled to begin the project of providing answers to the criticalengineering student questions. The answers to these questions will eventually be posted on thewebsite of an engineering transfer student program sponsored by the National ScienceFoundation under an NSF-STEP grant 0856834. Since it will take some time to compile all ofthese answers, in this paper we sought to identify the most critical questions for these students asthe starting point for providing the answers.An assignment relative to these 136 questions was given to the students in two academic successclasses. The first class includes 33 freshmen and sophomore engineering students who arerecipients of an NSF S-STEM scholarship under grant 0807134. The second class includesjuniors, seniors, and graduate students in an academic success class where most of the studentsare scholarship holders of NSF S-STEM scholarships (grants 000728695 for transfer studentsand 1060226 for non-transfer and graduate students) or of NSF STEP grant 0856834scholarships. All of these NSF programs have an emphasis on women and under-representedminority students. Over 60% of the scholarship students are female or underrepresentedminority students.The students were asked to read through the 136 questions and then to select and to rank the top20 questions critical to them. The rankings of the top twenty questions were then analyzed as awhole to determine the most critical and then by the various populations: by academic standing,by transfer or non-transfer status, by scholarship status, by gender, and by ethnicity. The resultsof this analysis will be presented in the paper.By reviewing the results of this study, educators who are working with engineering students arealerted to these critical questions and can bring up these issues in discussions with their studentsand help to provide answers. These actions are designed to help retention, to increase the interestof students in engineering, and to have more engineering graduates go on to graduate school.

Rodriguez, A. A., & Anderson-Rowland, M. R. (2012, June), Critical Questions to which Engineering Students Need Answers Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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