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Engineering Competitions as Pathways to Development of Professional Engineering Skills

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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

Student Teams, Groups, and Collaborations

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Lori C. Bland George Mason University Orcid 16x16

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Lori C. Bland, Ph.D., is an associate professor at George Mason University. She teaches courses in educational assessment, program evaluation, and data-driven decision-making. Bland received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Virginia. Her current research focuses on identifying, examining, and assessing learning and professional outcomes in formal and informal learning environments in K-12, higher education, and the workforce; how data is used from assessments to inform decision-making; and the application of assessment or evaluation methods to solve educational problems.

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Stephanie Marie Kusano University of Michigan

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Stephanie Kusano is an assessment and evaluation postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at University of Michigan. She has a Ph.D. in Engineering Education, M.S. in Biomedical Engineering, and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, all from Virginia Tech. Her research interests include engaged learning and high impact practices, assessment, and design education. Her teaching experience has primarily been with first-year engineering.

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Aditya Johri George Mason University Orcid 16x16

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Aditya Johri is Associate Professor in the Information Sciences and Technology Department. Dr. Johri studies the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for learning and knowledge sharing, with a focus on cognition in informal environments. He also examine the role of ICT in supporting distributed work among globally dispersed workers and in furthering social development in emerging economies. He received the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Early Career Award in 2009. He is co-editor of the Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research (CHEER) published by Cambridge University Press, New York, NY. Dr. Johri earned his Ph.D. in Learning Sciences and Technology Design at Stanford University and a B.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering at Delhi College of Engineering.

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In this paper we present preliminary findings from a research project aimed at identifying learning outcomes in informal environments. For our study we focus specifically on engineering competitions which have gained momentum across a range of engineering disciplines. Increasingly, students are participating in design competitions that range anywhere from multi-year activities such as Concrete Canoe, Formula SAE to short term activities such as one day competitions on Hack-a-thons. Although competitions are becoming popular, there is little research on what students learn through their participation in these events. Proponents of competitions argue that these activities provide students the opportunity to apply both technical and professional skills and knowledge to a practical or applied problem and through their participation improve their skills or knowledge, i.e. learn. To empirically examine this issue we conducted a qualitative study across competitions and then developed a survey to measure learning outcomes. We examined students’ experiences of developing professional skills as defined by ABET. Findings indicate that professional responsibilities were discussed most often. Students discussed cognitions, behaviors, and dispositions in three broad categories: self-management, task management, and team management. By providing students the opportunity to own the problem and its outcomes, engineering competitions can empower students to think like, act as, and be professional engineers.

Bland, L. C., & Kusano, S. M., & Johri, A. (2016, June), Engineering Competitions as Pathways to Development of Professional Engineering Skills Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26629

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