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Empathy, Engineering, and Girls

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Technical Session 17

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

16

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34525

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34525

Download Count

148

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Paper Authors

biography

Deborah Besser P.E. University of St. Thomas

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Dr. Besser, PE, ENV SP, holds a PhD in education and MS and BS in civil engineering. Currently, she is civil engineering chair and Center for Engineering Education director. Previous experience includes faculty positions in diverse universities where she has taught a variety of coursework including steel, timber, concrete and masonry design, construction, engineering economy, engineering graphics and engineering education. Prior to teaching, Dr. Besser, a licensed engineer, was a design engineer with HNTB-CA, where she worked on seismic retrofits and new design of high profile transportation structures.

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Karin Brown University of St. Thomas

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Karin works at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN as a dedicated Instructional Designer and a passionate education enthusiast. Her goal is to foster positive learning experiences for students by working with instructors, assisting them in creating engaging and motivating activities while incorporating sound educational pedagogy. Her experience includes teaching high school math, overseeing a high school grades management database, and practicing instructional design. She also has strong expertise in online learning and incorporating technology into the classroom. Karin lives in Minneapolis, MN.

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Alison Haugh University of St. Thomas

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Alison is a fifth grade educator at Glacier Hills Elementary School of Arts and Sciences in Eagan, Minnesota. She completed degree programs in STEM education with an emphasis in engineering, and in Elementary Education at the University of St. Thomas. Currently, Alison is pursuing a Ph.D in STEM Education at the University of Minnesota in and continues to provide insight to undergraduate research students in the Playful Learning Lab.

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Tami Brass University of St. Thomas and St. Paul Academy and Summit School

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Director of Instructional Technology, St Paul Academy and Summit School K12 Collaboration Liaison,
Center for Engineering Education, St. Thomas University

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Rebecca Ann Leininger University of St. Thomas

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I am an education student pursuing a degree and license in 5-8 general science and 9-12 life science. I am a member of the Playful Learning Lab and work on many projects through Ok Go Sandbox, with the Minnesota Children's Museum as well as working on the STEPs engineering camp here at the University of Saint Thomas.

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AnnMarie Thomas University of St. Thomas

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AnnMarie Thomas is a professor in the School of Engineering and the Opus Colluege of Business at the University of St. Thomas where she is the director of the UST Center for Engineering Education. Her research group, the Playful Learning Lab, focuses on engineering and design education for learners of all ages.

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Abstract

Empathy, Engineering and Girls (Fundamental)

Women’s participation in engineering remains consistently underrepresented. Mechanical engineering, the discipline with the highest percentage of engineering graduates, has approximately 25,000 graduates per year, with only 10.9% of all mechanical engineering employment engaged by women; Civil Engineering and Electrical Engineering, which holds approximately the second and third most Bachelors of engineering degrees, with approximately 12,500 graduates per year each, has 14.8% and 9.4% of all employment apportioned to women (Roy; Bureau of Labor Statistics). The need for establishing a critical mass of women and the need to evolve engineering cultural norms are consistently reported as an antidote to the low participation of women in the engineering workforce (Greed; Seymour & Hewitt). This case study investigates a potential mechanism for shifting engineering cultural norms with the integration of empathy in engineering; this may also be a springboard for cultural change and the development of a critical mass of women in an engineering. This study employs a well-established informal engineering education program which has educated over 4000 young women over a continuous 20-year period. Program curriculum developers focus on methods which guide students to learn more about engineering, to creatively solve engineering design problems, to connect their personal interests to engineering and to guide learners to envision the potential that these skills have in their future careers. This study spotlights how the engineering experience is markedly different for these young women when empathy is the unifying cornerstone from which all engineering design experiences flow.

Recent research findings on empathy and engineering points to the necessity of pairing empathy with engineering, including empathy needed for emotional intelligence in engineering design, the necessity of empathy for product design and the need for empathy as an essential skill in engineering project management. Additionally, the use of empathy in the school years is well established for success in multiple modes, including in an inclusive learning culture and as a basis for teamwork. Yet under explored is how different populations of students may more fully embrace engineering design as a problem solving strategy and engineering as a potential career path when empathy and engineering are paired.

The research questions this study address are twofold: to what extent does building empathy influence student internal motivation to appreciate engineering and to what extent may appreciation be deep enough to orient career ambitions towards engineering? The research methodology is mixed methods and employs triangulation of data collection with pre and post survey data, observations and interviews. Data from this study points to the strong disposition towards empathy that participants hold. And qualitative thematic analysis is consistent across observations and interviews. Fully explored within the study is the degree to which empathy influenced learners’ motivation in employing engineering design, learning more about engineering and potentially pursuing engineering. Additionally, innovations developed in this low stakes environment may lead to teaching tools which may transfer into traditional classroom settings.

References Bureau of Labor Statics. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population. Downloaded from https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm on September 1, 2019. Greed, C. (2000). Women in the construction professions: Achieving critical mass. Gender, Work & Organization, 7(3), 181-196. Roy, J. (2019) Engineering by the Numbers. Profiles of Engineering & Engineering Technology. Washington D.C. American Society for Engineering Education. Seymour, E., & Hewitt, N. M. (1997). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Besser, D., & Brown, K., & Haugh, A., & Brass, T., & Leininger, R. A., & Thomas, A. (2020, June), Empathy, Engineering, and Girls Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34525

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