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Does a Middle School Intervention for Girls Have Long-Lasting Differential Effects on Their Perceptions of and Participation in Engineering? (research to practice)

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Outreach to K-12 Females

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.441.1 - 23.441.13



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Paper Authors


Chrysanthe Demetry Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. Chrysanthe Demetry is associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Morgan Teaching & Learning Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her teaching and scholarship focuses on materials science education, use of educational technology, K-12 engineering outreach, and intercultural learning in experiential education abroad. As director of the Morgan Center at WPI since 2006, Demetry coordinates programs and services fostering excellence and innovation in teaching at WPI and supports course-based and program-level assessment of student learning outcomes.

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Suzanne Sontgerath Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Sontgerath holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and is currently pursuing an M.Ed. at Worcester State University. She is currently a staff member in the WPI Admissions Office. She is also co-director of WPI’s outreach program for middle school girls Camp Reach, and of other high school outreach programs for students.

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Does a Middle School Intervention for Girls Have Long-Lasting Differential Effects on Their Perceptions of and Participation in Engineering? (research to practice)Founded in 1997, [Program Name] is a residential summer STEM enrichment program for rising7th grade girls, with continuing mentoring, communications, and activities for participants as theyadvance from seventh grade through their high school years. The program design directlyintegrates research on factors influencing participation of women in STEM. Short-term formativeand summative evaluation, both quantitative and qualitative, have been used since the program’sinception for purposes of continuous improvement, and the program has received two nationalawards for its role in encouraging young women in engineering and as an outstanding modelprogram.A distinctive element of [Program Name] is its ongoing quasi-experimental study of long-termprogram effects, enabled by a lottery selection process for the 30 available spots each year. Girlswho applied to and attended [Program Name] and girls who applied to [Program Name] but didnot attend (thus, a Control group) comprise the study sample. Their application to [ProgramName] suggests openness to the idea of pursuing STEM educational pathways as sixth graders;however, the lottery selection process allows this characteristic to be spread equally across bothgroups. We conduct telephone interviews with women in both groups after their expectedgraduation from high school. Research questions include the following:  What are the STEM-related high school experiences (courses and activities) of study participants and do those experiences differ between groups?  Does the pursuit of STEM-related college majors differ between groups?  What are their perceptions and knowledge of engineering?  What is their engineering self-efficacy and perceived abilities in STEM areas?  Many years after the summer program, do [Program Name] participants believe it had a lasting influence? If so, how? Which elements of the program are particularly influential?In 2009, results from the first five years of the program (1997-2001) were published (Authors, J.of Women & Minorities in Sci & Eng), representing 176 study participants and a 70% responserate. Among other findings, we discovered that 18% of participants in the full [Program Name]program (summer experience and follow-up) declared engineering majors in college, comparedwith 3% of the Control group.In the summer of 2012 we extended the study to the next five years of the program (2002-2006),contacting an additional 144 study participants (57% response rate). We also refined theinterview protocol, making use of assessment questions tested and disseminated by AWE(Assessing Women and Men in Engineering). This paper will present a subset of the findings,focusing on the study participants’ perceptions of engineering, ongoing participation inengineering, and influential elements of the program. Preliminary findings include the following:  The [Program Name] group responded more positively and accurately than the Control group to two of five statements probing their perceptions of engineers.  Measures of engineering self-efficacy were comparable between groups.  [Program Name] participants identified teamwork, role models, and the service-learning design project among the most influential elements of the program.A more complete set of findings will be presented in the paper, and implications for the efficacyof middle school enrichment programs will be discussed.

Demetry, C., & Sontgerath, S. (2013, June), Does a Middle School Intervention for Girls Have Long-Lasting Differential Effects on Their Perceptions of and Participation in Engineering? (research to practice) Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19455

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