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Engineering Ambassadors Network: Progress in Year 3 on Creating a National Network of Ambassadors

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

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NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Christine Haas Engineering Ambassadors Network

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Christine Haas brings ten years of experience working in marketing and communications with a focus on the science and engineering fields. She’s held positions as the director of marketing for Drexel’s College of Engineering and director of operations for Worcester Polytechnic Institute - Engineering.

Now, as CEO of Christine Haas Consulting, LLC, Christine travels around the world teaching courses to scientists and engineers on presentations and technical writing. She has taught clients across government, industry and higher education, including Texas Instruments, Brookhaven National Laboratory, European Southern Observatory (Chile), Simula Research Laboratory (Norway) and the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. Christine works closely with Penn State University faculty Michael Alley (The Craft of Scientific Presentations and The Craft of Scientific Writing) and Melissa Marshall (TED, “Talk Nerdy to Me”) on these courses.

Christine is also the director of the Engineering Ambassadors Network, a start-up organization at 25 plus universities worldwide that teaches presentation skills to undergraduate engineering students, particularly women and underrepresented groups in engineering. These Engineering Ambassadors develop valuable leadership and communication skills, which they apply through engineering outreach to middle and high school students.

Christine received her MBA in marketing and international business from Drexel University and her BA in English and film from Dickinson College.

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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 is the author of The Craft of Scientific Presentations (Springer-Verlag, 2013) and founder of the website Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science (, which receives more than 1 million page downloads each year.

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Joanna K. Garner Old Dominion University

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Dr. Garner is the Associate Director of Program Development and a Research Associate Professor in The Center for Educational Partnerships at Old Dominion University, VA.

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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 PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Thole’s expertise is heat transfer and cooling of gas turbine airfoils through detailed experimental and computational studies. At Penn State, Dr. Thole founded the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine Laboratory (START) lab, which houses a unique test turbine facility and is a center of excellence in heat transfer for a major gas turbine manufacturer. Dr. Thole has published over 200 archival journal and conference papers supervised over 65 dissertations and theses. She has been recognized by the U.S. White House as a Champion of Change for STEM, the Rosemary Schraer Mentoring Award, and the Howard B. Palmer Faculty Mentoring Award. Dr. Thole also received the 2014 Society of Women Engineer’s Distinguished Engineering Educator Award, the 2015 ASME George Westinghouse Gold Medal, and the 2016 Edwin F. Church Medal.

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To solve today’s engineering challenges, we need a wide range of solutions, which can be realized only by having enough engineers with diverse and strong technical backgrounds. Workforce studies have shown that the number of students being educated in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) cannot meet projected demands [1]. Also, the current enrollments in engineering are not diverse, especially among women, blacks, and Hispanics [2]. On another issue, a recent survey of engineers in industry indicates a compelling need for engineers to have strong communication skills [3].

Addressing these challenges is the Engineering Ambassadors Network: a network of professional development programs for undergraduate engineering students with an outreach mission to middle and high schools. The development mission is to enrich the communication and leadership skills of engineering undergraduates through academic programs. The outreach mission is to attract a diverse population of middle and high school students into engineering. In short, the Engineering Ambassadors Network places the right messenger (engineering undergraduates with advanced presentation skills) with the right message (messages about engineering from Changing the Conversation [4]) in front of middle and high school students.

This paper describes progress on the expansion of the Network during 2015, which was the third year of the program. In this third year, we held three training workshops at pilot schools and a regional workshop at a member school that included more than 150 trainees and senior ambassadors from eight schools. In addition, we further developed online training materials to enable pilot programs to teach advanced communication skills to new members so that they can perform the outreach. Support for these four workshops and training materials arose from a grant from the National Science Foundation [5]. In addition, the efforts this year were deeply influenced by last year’s participation in an NSF I-Corps workshop [6].

References 1. Carnevale, A.P. and S.J. Rose (2011). The Undereducated American. Available at 2. American Society of Engineering Education (2009). Available at Accessed October 1, 2011. 3. ASME, “Vision 2030―Creating the Future of Mechanical Engineering Education,” American Society of Mechanical Engineers (New York: ASME, 2010). 4. National Academy of Engineering, Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering (Washington, D.C.: NAE Press, 2008). 5. _____________, _____________, ___________, and _________, “Type 2: Creating a National Network of Engineering Ambassadors: A Professional Development Program with an Outreach Mission,” National Science Foundation Grant 1323230 (College of Engineering, _____________________, 2013-2016). 6. _____________, _____________, ___________, and _________, “Leveraging the I-Corps Model to Propagate and Scale the Innovative Approaches to Learning Made Possible by the Engineering Ambassador Program,” National Science Foundation Grant (College of Engineering, _____________________, 2014).

Haas, C., & Alley, M., & Garner, J. K., & Thole, K. A. (2016, June), Engineering Ambassadors Network: Progress in Year 3 on Creating a National Network of Ambassadors Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26612

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