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Early Engineering Interests and Attitudes: Can We Identify Them?

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engineering Education Research in K-12

Tagged Divisions

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering and Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.517.1 - 22.517.12



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Paper Authors


Karen A. High Oklahoma State University

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Karen High earned her B.S. from the University of Michigan in 1985 and her M.S. in 1988 and Ph.D. in 1991 from the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. High is an Associate Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering at Oklahoma State University where she has been since 1991. Her main technical research interests are Sustainable Process Design, Industrial Catalysis, and Multicriteria Decision Making. Her engineering education activities include enhancing mathematics, communication skills, critical thinking and creativity in engineering students and teaching science and engineering to education professionals. Dr. High is a trainer for Project Lead the Way pre-Engineering. Additionally, she works with middle school teachers and students on engineering projects.

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Melanie C. Page Oklahoma State University

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Melanie C. Page received her Ph.D. in Quantitative Psychology from Arizona State University in 1998. She is currently a professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of the OSU Institute for Creativity and Innovation (ICI) in the School of Entrepreneurship. Her research interests are mainly in prevention/intervention research; She is currently involved in several projects. One major project is looking at decreasing childhood overweight through family and peer interventions (FiSH project) with colleagues in HDFS. She is also part of two large team with colleagues in Education, Engineering, and Sociology to look at girls’ and women’s achievements in math and science. Her research collaborations have resulted in 3 million dollars in state and federal funding while at OSU. Recent publications appear in Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Journal of Pediatric Psychology, Early Childhood Research Quarterly & Children's Health Care. She teaches undergraduate and graduate statistics and undergraduate psychological testing and was the Director of the Lifespan Developmental Psychology Ph.D. program from 2006 to 2010. She is currently a Riata Faculty Fellow in the School of Entrpreneurship where she directs the newly formed Institute for Creativity and Innovation. The goal of ICI is for OSU to be known as a creative campus in which all faculty, staff, and students are given the tools to reach their full potential. She is also a wife and a mother to two young boys, seven and ten.

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Julie Thomas Oklahoma State University

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Rural, American Indian Early Student Engineering Interests and AttitudesA team of multidisciplinary university researchers in collaboration with local tribal and public schoolofficials, have engaged in a project to measure changes in young students’ STEM interests, achievement,and attitudes over three years and relate these changes to identifiable parent/teacher influences. Thisresearch follows a modified intersectional theory approach to consider the interdependence of school andhome cultures on attitudes and interests in science and math. Research questions are: What are the red-light (stop) and green-light (go) signals in the elementary school years that encourage or discouragescience and math interests, specifically among rural American Indian girls? What science and mathteaching practices encourage girls’ STEM interests within this population? The main objective of thisproject is to determine significant predictors of low-income, rural American Indian boys’ and girls’ earlyinterests in STEM with the long-term goal to provide new guidance for classroom practices thatencourage young girls’ STEM interests. The targeted school region includes large numbers of low,socio-economic status (SES) students (those eligible for free and reduced-price meals) and NativeAmericans. The study includes 584 students (with approximately 50% Native American students) ingrades 3rd – 5thth with similar numbers of girls and boys at each level.The presented part of this study examines an engineering subscale of a developed interest and attitudeinstrument. The “gold” standard in math and science interest assessment is the Fennema andSherman’s measure; however the original measure was developed for high school students andadults and is too long. None of the shorter modified versions had been used with children asyoung as our sample and they were all still too long. The research team chose to develop amodification by looking for redundant or difficult to understand items. The developed measurehas 30 items and good reliability (Cronbach’s α = .91; subscale reliabilities ranged from .78 to.84).The researchers developed an engineering subscale from the survey. The “who should do theseactivities” subscale for children had an acceptable alpha of .76, but the “engineering what I do inmy free time” did not, but it had fewer items (α = .56). An egalitarian belief scale in whoshould do engineering-related activities and rating of how often one does them were created. The“should measure” consisted of fly model airplane, build with tools, fix bikes, draw (or design)buildings, draw (or design) cars/rockets, and build model airplanes. The activities subscaleconsisted of build forts, fix a car, build with tools, and (draw or design) cars or rockets.Overall, higher engineering egalitarianism scores were related to higher math efficacy, utility,and egalitarianism scores and higher science egalitarianism and efficacy scores. Higherengineering activity scores were related to higher math efficacy, utility, mother and father scoresand science efficacy and lower math and science egalitarianism scores.

High, K. A., & Page, M. C., & Thomas, J. (2011, June), Early Engineering Interests and Attitudes: Can We Identify Them? Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17798

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