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Engineering Camp: A Residential Experience Designed to Build Academic Capital in Pre-college Students

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

K-12 Outreach and Out-of-School Time Engineering Programming and Research

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.493.1 - 24.493.10



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Paper Authors


Erin Jablonski Bucknell University

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Erin received her PhD at Iowa State University with funding from a NSF graduate fellowship before taking a NRC postdoctoral position at NIST. She joined the faculty at Bucknell in 2004 and has taught courses across the curriculum.

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Margot A. Vigeant Bucknell University

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Margot is a professor of chemical engineering and associate dean of engineering at Bucknell University.

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Engineering Camp: a residential experience designed to build academic capital in pre-college studentsEngineering Camp is a one-week on-campus residential program that exposes pre-college (post7th -11th grade) students to engineering disciplines through introductory seminars,demonstrations, laboratory experiments, and design challenges. The program improves students’awareness of the breadth of engineering and emphasizes the benefit of developing skills inSTEM. The camp is offered in grade-based parallel sessions geared to the audience, and camperscan return in subsequent summers. Importantly, the camp provides a college-like experience thatis integral to building academic capital and a sense of belonging for students.During Camp students live in dormitories, eat in the university dining hall, go to class eachmorning, have laboratory sessions each afternoon, enjoy an active “social life” (under closesupervision), and get a full college experience. The main goal of the camp is to introducestudents to engineering disciplines in a way that motivates and prepares them for undergraduatemajors. Camp features highly active classroom and laboratory sessions that introduce thesetechnical topics not through lecture or ‘cook-book’ laboratory, but through active, collaborative,and problem-based learning approaches shown to be not only more effective at fostering studentunderstanding than traditional approaches, but also superior for retaining the most diverseaudience of learners1-4. Camp particularly reaches out to students in urban and rural under-resourced schools who might not otherwise be exposed to topics in engineering and technologybefore graduation, and therefore would not have prepared themselves for or even considered anundergraduate major in a STEM field.Campers come from a variety of educational and economic backgrounds, and some students arerecruited from partner schools in target rural and urban areas. An additional goal for EngineeringCamp is to remove the mystique about going to college and majoring in a technical field. Manyof the campers, particularly those from under-resourced urban and rural areas, would be first-generation college students, without the family academic capital that could help them prepare foruniversity processes5. Camp provides a safe environment to become comfortable with residentialliving learning environments. Both class and laboratory content are challenging but tailored to beinteresting to students aged 13-16. By engaging these students in activities that closely mimicthose of typical undergraduates in an engineering or technical major, their apprehension aboutcollege in general and difficult curricula in particular are significantly lessened.In addition to cumulative assessment over several years, the paper will discuss camper surveyresults that show a strong positive response to questions (related to camp attendance) such as: “Iam ( more likely, as likely, less likely) to pursue an undergraduate engineering major.”; “I ( can,can sort of, can’t really, can’t at all) imagine myself as a practicing engineer.”; “I am ( veryconfident; confident; not very confident; not at all confident) in my potential to solve engineeringproblems.”1. Holdren, J. P., and Lander, E. “Engage to excel: Producing one million additional college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” Report to the President (2012):2. Deslauriers, Louis, Schelew, Ellen, and Wieman, C. “Improved learning in a large-enrollment physics class.” Science 332, no. 13 May (2011): 862-64.3. Hake, R. “Lessons from the physics education reform effort.” CONSERVATION ECOLOGY 5, no. 2 (2002): 28.4. Hake, R. R. “Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses.” American Journal of Physics 66, no. 1 (1998): 64-74.5. St.John, E.P., S. Hu, and A.S. Fisher. Breaking Through the Access Barrier: How Academic Capital Formation Can Improve Policy in Higher Education. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Jablonski, E., & Vigeant, M. A. (2014, June), Engineering Camp: A Residential Experience Designed to Build Academic Capital in Pre-college Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20384

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