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Eliciting Mexican High School Students’ Images of Engineering: What Do Engineers Do?

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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

Broadening Participation of Minority Students in and with K-12 Engineering

Tagged Divisions

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering and Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.553.1 - 22.553.9

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Paper Authors

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Caridad Cruz Universidad de las Americas, Puebla

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Rocio C Chavela Guerra Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Aurelio Lopez-Malo Universidad de las Americas, Puebla


Enrique Palou Universidad de las Americas, Puebla

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Enrique Palou is Director, Center for Science, Engineering, and Technology Education; and Professor, Department of Chemical, Food, and Environmental Engineering at Universidad de las Americas, Puebla in Mexico. He teaches engineering design, food science, and education related courses. His research interests include emerging technologies for food processing, creating effective learning environments, and building rigorous research capacity in science, engineering and technology education.

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Eliciting Mexican High School Students’ Images of Engineering: What Do Engineers Do?Images shape the way individuals view the world, thus, eliciting and understanding the imageMexican students have of engineers and engineering is extremely important in order to developprograms and curricula that encourage engineering learning at the high school level [1]. Thisstudy collected data using the Draw an Engineer (DAE) test [1-5] followed up by unstructuredinformal interviews. The 187 students participating in the study were given the DAE test at thebeginning of an unrelated class at ABC high school in Ciudad del Carmen in the state ofCampeche. The purpose of the DAE test was to determine individual conceptions of engineersand engineering. Students were given 10 min to draw an engineer (previously they were asked toclose their eyes and imagine an engineer at work) and then 10-15 min to answer three questionprompts related to what they had drawn: 1) Describe what the engineer is doing in your drawing.Write at least two sentences. 2) List at least three words/phrases that come to mind when youthink of an engineer. 3) What kinds of things do you think an engineer does? [1, 5]. DAE testfacilitators were careful not to talk about engineers or engineering during test administration.Facilitators offered help to clarify directions and question prompts, but they did not offer anyideas or assistance that would influence students’ original conceptions of engineers orengineering. Thirty informal interviews (which were videotaped) were performed during theDAE test and consisted of one-on-one discussions between a facilitator and students toinvestigate reasoning’s behind his/her drawing and responses.Data from the DAE test were analyzed by identifying qualitatively distinct categories or clusters.Three researchers were involved in the analysis process. The analysis process began with opencoding because there were no pre-determined categories. Analysis of the student’s drawings andanswers to question prompts indicated the emergence of four main categories: 1) Engineers inaction, 2) Characteristics of an engineer, 3) Occurrence of gender, and 4)  Work context. Keyelements that depicted engineers in action included drawings of engineers designing,supervising, directing, and being in charge. Key elements that depicted characteristics of anengineer included drawings depicting engineers measuring, creating, being a leader, makingdecisions, using mathematics, using his/her intelligence, and wearing special clothing. Eventhough the female participants (108) in this program were almost 60% of the participants, themajority (63%) of the drawings depicted a male engineer at work, while 24% of high schoolstudents included a male and a female or a neutral figure in their drawing. 27% of the drawingsdepict engineers working at oil platforms (an important activity of the city were the study wasperformed), while 35% places the engineers working in construction related activities, and 26%of the drawings associated engineers with office related activities. The informal interviewscorroborated major findings while helping researchers gain insight into individual reasoningbehind these 30 student drawings and answers. The DAE test appears to be an appropriate tool toelicit perception of the engineering profession among Mexican high school students. Analysis ofconstructed responses indicates that most students held common misconceptions about engineerswhile very few were knowledgeable about what engineers do.[1] Carreño, S., Palou, E., López-Malo, A. (2010). Eliciting P-12 Mexican Teachers’ Images of Engineering: What Do Engineers Do? Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. Louisville, Kentucky.[2] Knight, M. & Cunningham, C.M. (2004). Draw an engineer test (DAET): Development of a tool to investigate students’ ideas about engineers and engineering. Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Salt Lake City, Utah.[3] Lyons, J. and Thomson, S. (2006). Investigating the long-term impact of an engineering- based GK-12 program on students’ perceptions of engineering, Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Chicago, Illinois.[4] Bodner, G., Karatas, F. and Micklos. M. (2008). Sixth grade students’ images of engineering: what do engineers do? Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[5] Ganesh, T., Thieken, J., Elser, M., Baker, D., Krause, S., Roberts, C., Kurpius-Robinson, S., Middleton, J. and Golden, J. (2009). Eliciting underserved middle-school youths’ notions of engineers: draw an engineer, Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Austin, Texas.  

Cruz, C., & Chavela Guerra, R. C., & Lopez-Malo, A., & Palou, E. (2011, June), Eliciting Mexican High School Students’ Images of Engineering: What Do Engineers Do? Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

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