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Engineering Ambassador Network: Dissemination through an Inaugural National Workshop

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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

Communication, Professional Development, and the Engineering Ambassador Network

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.495.1 - 23.495.10



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Paper Authors


Karen A. Thole Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Dr. Karen A. Thole is the head of the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. She holds two degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. After receiving her Ph.D., she spent two years as a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Thermal Turbomachinery at the University of Karslruhe in Germany. Her academic career began in 1994 when she became an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1999, she accepted a position in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Virginia Tech where she was promoted to Professor in 2003. She was appointed as the Department Head in July 2006 at Penn State.
Dr. Thole’s areas of expertise are heat transfer and fluid mechanics specializing in turbulent boundary layers, convective heat transfer, and high freestream turbulence effects. Dr. Thole has been responsible for attracting funding from such agencies at the US Department of Energy, US Air Force, United Technologies Corporation - Pratt & Whitney, Solar Turbines, Modine Manufacturing, and Siemens-Westinghouse. She has co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed journal papers and has advised over 40 graduate theses.

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Sarah E Zappe Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Sarah E. Zappe is Director of Assessment and Instructional Support in the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of
Engineering Education at Penn State University. In her current position, Dr. Zappe is responsible for supporting curricular
assessment and developing instructional support programs for faculty in the College of Engineering. In her research role,
Dr. Zappe is interested in the integration of creativity into the engineering curriculum, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Dr. Zappe holds a doctorate in educational psychology specializing in applied testing and measurement. Her measurement interests include the development of instruments to measure the engineering professional skills and using qualitative data to enhance the response process validity of tests and instruments.

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Melissa Marshall Pennsylvania State University, University Park


Michael Alley Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Michael Alley is an associate professor of engineering communication at Pennsylvania State University. He serves on the advisory board of the Engineering Ambassador Network. With Melissa Marshall and Christine Haas, he teaches advanced presentation skills to Engineering Ambassadors in workshops across the country.

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Renata S. Engel P.E. Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Dr. Renata Engel is Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the College of Engineering at Penn State and has been a member of the Penn State faculty since 1990. Engel’s research couples her interest in design and manufacturing with advanced materials, with a focus on computational modeling. She has also been involved in the scholarship of teaching and learning primarily to infuse design into the curriculum. For her contributions, she has received several individual and collaborative teaching awards, and is a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education. She has held several leadership positions in ASEE including those in the Middle Atlantic Section, and Mechanics Division. She has served on ASEE’s Board of Directors, and was ASEE President in 2010-2011.

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Engineering Ambassador Network: Dissemination through First National Workshop The Engineering Ambassador Network, which was founded in May 2009 at PennsylvaniaState University, is a professional development program for engineering undergraduates with anoutreach mission to middle and high schools. Three features distinguish the EngineeringAmbassador programs of this Network from other outreach programs around the country that useundergraduate engineers. First, the Engineering Ambassadors in the Network use messages fromChanging the Conversation by the National Academy of Engineers1 to provide outreachpresentations to middle and high school students on what engineers do. In effect, thesepresentations deliver effective messages (the marketing messages of Changing the Conversation)to the middle and high school students, rely on effective messengers (undergraduate engineerswho are just a few years older than the target audience), and employ an effective mode ofdelivery (advanced presentation techniques).2 Second, the Engineers Ambassadors themselvesdevelop professionally because they receive training on the advanced presentation skills andleadership skills to carry out these presentations. Moreover, that communication training isdeepened by Engineering Ambassadors actually going into middle and high schools to deliverthose presentations. Third, the programs in the Engineering Ambassador Network areacademically based, as opposed to being clubs as is the case with many other outreach programsthat use undergraduate engineers—our contention is that grounding deepens the commitment ofthe Ambassadors. In 2010, through support by United Technologies, the Engineering Ambassador programat Penn State expanded to a Network of four northeastern schools: Penn State, RensselaerPolytechnic Institute, the University of Connecticut, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. ThisNetwork had much success at providing the described presentations to middle and high schoolstudents throughout the Northeast. Then in August 2012, the Engineering Ambassador Networkhad a national workshop to add 17 pilot schools from across the United States. These pilotschools had a strong geographic diversity—from the University of Maine to Arizona StateUniversity and from the University of Washington to Georgia Tech with 13 other schools spreadbetween. Supporting this national workshop was the National Science Foundation, the Penn StateElectro-Optics Center, and the College of Engineering at Penn State. This paper presents an assessment of the effectiveness of that national workshop atdisseminating both the advanced communication skills to the attending 45 students and theprocess needed to institute an Engineering Ambassador program to the 22 attendingadministrators and faculty from the 17 pilot schools. For the 45 students who attended the workshop from the pilot schools, the main goal ofthe workshop was to prepare them to create and deliver an Engineering Ambassador presentationthat would target middle and high school students. To measure the success of this goal, we hadthe students prepare and deliver an Engineering Ambassador presentation that targeted highschool students. Before the workshop, the students received a preparation assignment that wasaccompanied by peer mentoring from Engineering Ambassadors at the member schools. Inaddition, during the workshop, the students received training, peer mentoring, and feedbacksessions. The workshop culminated with the participating students giving their presentations in ashowcase performance before an audience of about 40 to 50 attendees. In addition tosummarizing the results of that showcase performance, this paper presents the results of a pre-and post survey that measured the confidence levels and understanding by the attending studentsof different presentation skills. For the 22 administrators and faculty who attended the workshop from the 17 pilotschools, the main goal of the workshop was to communicate what steps were needed to initiateand run an Engineering Ambassador program at their respective institutions. To measure thesuccess of the workshop in achieving that goal, we conducted a pre- and post-survey to measurethe confidence levels and understanding by these administrators and faculty of the steps neededto initiate and run an Engineering Ambassador program. This paper reports the results of thosesurveys as well as the comments and questions of the administrators and faculty during themeetings that discussed those steps.References1. National Academy of Engineering, Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering (Washington, D.C.: NAE Press, 2008).2. Melissa Marshall, Michael Alley, Karen Thole, Mary Frecker, Renata Engel, and Sarah Zappe, “Ambassador Program for Recruiting Girls into Engineering—Appropriate Messages, Messengers, and Modes of Delivery,” 2010 Frontiers in Education Conference, paper 1229 (Washington, D.C.: ASEE/IEEE, October 27-30).3. Engineering Ambassador National Conference, (University Park, PA: Penn State, 2012).

Thole, K. A., & Zappe, S. E., & Marshall, M., & Alley, M., & Engel, R. S. (2013, June), Engineering Ambassador Network: Dissemination through an Inaugural National Workshop Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19509

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