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Engaging Pre-college Minority Students at a Technical Engineering Research Conference

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Developing Quality Experiences that Retain Diverse Engineering Talent

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Tizoc Cruz-Gonzalez University of Michigan

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Tizoc Cruz-Gonzalez is a Ph.D candidate in mechanical engineering focusing on design with smart materials at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on model-based design of dielectric elastomer devices. He received his Bachelor of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After receiving his degree, Tizoc worked for five years as an aerospace engineer and as a Presidential Campaign Field Organizer in 2008. Ultimately, Tizoc desires to expand his research into advancing smart material technology, while continuing his work to recruit and retain underserved students in STEM fields.

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Sarah Rose Sobek University of Michigan

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Earned her Master of Arts degree in Higher Education, with a concentration in public policy, from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Currently works as an academic advisor with the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, and is passionate about engineering education research.

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Julianna Marie Abel University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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Julianna Abel is a Benjamin Mayhugh Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Julianna was awarded her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan in August 2014. She received her M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2008 and her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 2005. Julianna's current research interests lie in the model-based design of smart material technologies. She is particularly interested in flexible actuators that leverage material and geometric properties to enable innovative actuator forms.

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Increasing diversity in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce and attracting diverse students into STEM disciplines have become issues of national importance. One method to aid in achieving this goal is through offering pre-college interventions to underserved students. This paper discusses and examines a novel pre-college STEM intervention that occurs at a technical engineering research conference. The intervention consists of a mini-workshop that has six components: (1) an introduction of graduate student mentors, (2) a general introduction to the engineering field of Smart Material and Structures through a PowerPoint presentation and live demonstrations of smart materials, (3) a low-cost design and build engineering activity that uses smart materials to demonstrate the applicability of the field of research, (4) an interactive tour of the conference hardware competition which provides concrete examples of cutting edge research, (5) a small group Q&A with graduate students engaged in research, and finally (6) a panel discussion with diverse research faculty committed to post-secondary engineering education. The challenges associated with this approach to outreach, the advantages of incorporating a STEM intervention into a technical research conference, and successful methods for locating a group of underserved students are discussed. In addition, the scale and impact of the intervention are evaluated through open-ended and quantitative surveys. The survey results document the positive student reaction to this intervention. The positive student feedback and logistics discussed in this paper demonstrate the feasibility of adoption of a similar outreach model at other technical conferences.

Cruz-Gonzalez, T., & Sobek, S. R., & Abel, J. M. (2016, June), Engaging Pre-college Minority Students at a Technical Engineering Research Conference Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26968

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