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Design it! Build it! A Summer Engineering Workshop for High School Students to Foster Creativity and Change Perceptions of Engineering (work in progress)

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-College Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.368.1 - 24.368.8



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Paper Authors


Vicki V. May Dartmouth College

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Vicki V. May, Ph.D., P.E. is an Instructional Associate Professor of Engineering at Dartmouth College. Her research focuses on engineering education and K-12 outreach. She teaches courses in solid mechanics, structural analysis, and integrated design at Dartmouth. Prior to relocating to the east coast, Professor May was an Associate Professor of Architectural Engineering at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

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Changing Perceptions and Understanding of Engineering by Designing and Building (Work in Progress)This past summer we piloted a two-week summer engineering workshop for high school studentsentering grades 10-12 focused on designing and building engineering prototypes. The main goalsof the workshop were to help students gain a better understanding of engineering and possiblychange their perceptions about engineering such that they began to view engineering as creative.A survey of over 1,000 high school students conducted by Penn Schoen Berland found thatstudents were more likely to consider engineering as a career if they had been exposed toengineering and better understood the role of engineers (Intel, 2011). Additionally, students whohad not been exposed to engineering were more likely to associate words like smart and difficultwith engineers and engineering, whereas students who had been exposed to engineering weremore likely to use words like inventive and cool (Intel, 2011).Our first step in trying to enhance understanding and change perceptions was to help studentsdevelop some engineering skills including design thinking, spatial reasoning, and engineeringproblem-solving. We included activities such as brainstorming, an improv session, sketching andcomputer-aided design tutorials. An engineering problem-solving session had the students re-defining problem statements and trying to come up with a variety of possible solutions. Thestudents designed and built gliders, spinning tops, 3D puzzles, pan-pipes and more using laser-cutters, lathes, and 3d printers. To help students see the breadth possible within engineering weincluded a variety of tours and short activities across different engineering disciplines: we visiteda biomedical laboratory, measured power generated by solar panels, and created a new chemicalformula for slime. As a culminating experience, the students worked in small groups to designand build a project of their choice: a longboard, a robot, a telescope, or an electric guitar.Participants reported enjoying the open-ended projects, ranking the open-ended design/build activitiesvery highly (8-9+ on a scale from 1 to 10). And comparisons of responses on the application and on theend-of-workshop survey to questions asking them to describe engineering and the role of engineersshowed an increased understanding of engineering with a higher frequency of words related to creativityappearing on the end-of-workshop survey than on the application. Results are preliminary and limited (32students participated in the pilot workshop) but promising.Intel Corporation, Exposure to Engineering Doubles Teens’ Career Interest. December 6, 2011. doubles-teens-career-interest

May, V. V. (2014, June), Design it! Build it! A Summer Engineering Workshop for High School Students to Foster Creativity and Change Perceptions of Engineering (work in progress) Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20259

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