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Engineering Workshops for Middle School Girls

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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

Gender Perceptions and Girls in K-12 Engineering and Computer Science

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.514.1 - 24.514.14



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Paper Authors

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Kelsey Barta Sweet Briar College


Bethany Brinkman Sweet Briar College

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Prof. Brinkman received her Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota, where she researched temporal and spatial variations in natural organic matter and how these variations impact water treatment. She also spent some time as a consulting engineer working on the implementation of ultrafiltration membranes for water utilities. Her current research interests include feed forward control systems, pilot scale treatment, engineered wetlands and organic matter dynamics. She enjoys teaching Introduction to Engineering Design, Statics, Dynamics, and Materials Science.

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Engineering Workshops for Middle School Girls (research to practice) The lack of female participation in the field of engineering is somewhat astonishing. Onestudy found that only 11% of professional engineers are women. (Fouad and Singh, 2011)According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), there are multiplepossible factors that contribute to this phenomenon, including societal bias and the environmentof the STEM classroom. As a society, it seems to be a natural assumption that the subjects ofmath, science, and engineering are traditionally “male” subjects. Research has been done toshow how “stereotypes can lower girls’ aspirations for science and engineering careers overtime.” (AAUW, 2010) In order to eliminate societal bias, the environment and manner in whichSTEM subjects are taught to girls must change. “If girls grow up in an environment thatcultivates their success in science and math with spatial skills training, they are more likely todevelop their skills as well as their confidence and consider a future in a STEM field.” (AAUW,2010) This project was designed to target middle school-aged girls who are approaching highschool with interactive engineering projects. This project explores whether exposing middleschool girls to engineering in a supportive environment increases their chances of studyingSTEM subjects later in their careers. This project included organizing and hosting three different engineering workshops formiddle school girls to introduce them to the subject of engineering in a supportive environment.At each engineering workshop, the girls were introduced to engineering by doing an activity thatinvolved creativity and problem solving skills. Each of the three workshops focused on adifferent discipline of engineering and the students were able to take home what they created.For electrical engineering, the students created an interactive miniature pinball machine while forchemical engineering the students learned chromatography principles to make tie-dye shirts. Themechanical engineering session resulted in the construction of small trebuchets capable oflaunching clay balls. In addition to using students' creativity and problem solving skills, the goalof the project was for girls to see themselves as potential engineers after each session. Tomeasure the success of this project, each of the girls participating was given a survey before andafter each session asking them to express their interest in engineering on a scale of 1 to 5. For allsessions combined, those students "somewhat interested" to "very interested" in engineeringincreased by 23%. Based on these surveys and student comments, we are confident that themiddle girls understand more of what an engineer does and can see themselves as futureengineers.References American Association of University Women (AAUW) "Why so Few?: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics." AAUW. (2010). Web. 23 Mar. 2012. . Fouad, Nadya A., and Romila Singh. "Stemming the Tide: Why Women Leave Engineering." University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (2011): 11. Web. 4 Apr. 2012. .

Barta, K., & Brinkman, B. (2014, June), Engineering Workshops for Middle School Girls Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20405

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