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Enhancing Diversity through Explicitly Designed Engineering Outreach

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2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

PreK-12 Track -. Technical Session III

Tagged Topic

Pre K-12 Education

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Paper Authors


Laura Bottomley North Carolina State University

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Dr. Laura Bottomley, Teaching Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Elementary Education, is also the Director of Women in Engineering and The Engineering Place at NC State University. She has been working in the field of engineering education for over 20 years. She is dedicated to conveying the joint messages that engineering is a set of fields that can use all types of minds and every person needs to be literate in engineering and technology. She is an ASEE and IEEE Fellow and PAESMEM awardee.

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A large university outreach program was founded in 1999 and grew as an extension of the Women in Engineering Program with the desire to attract more women to engineering by reaching out to younger students. It was soon evident any efforts to attract women to engineering would also be beneficial for underrepresented populations and all students. Working in the preK-12 space also highlighted the need to inform the public about the true nature of engineering, to promote and support educational improvements in the way that math and science are taught in K-12 schools and to place importance on 21st century skills for all students. Using these dual goals as a starting place, the outreach programs grew to serve more than 15,000 students and 2,000 teachers face-to-face each year.

University outreach in engineering is not uncommon, but the techniques used to scaffold success in meeting diversity goals are not obvious and not always discussed. This paper will describe the research-to-practice design approach of a comprehensive outreach program, making the elements designed to enhance the appeal of engineering to a diverse audience explicit. As a example, a common activity used in engineering outreach is building a robot. Because this might be construed as appealing more to male students, some groups might, instead, propose an activity to design high heeled shoes. The outreach program described in this paper seeks to design activities that are neither male OR female linked, that use authentic constraints and relate to real-world problems. Other examples included in the paper will be how programs are advertised, budgetary considerations in low socioeconomic areas and more. This approach to preK-12 outreach has contributed to a sharp increase in the diversity of a large College of Engineering.

Bottomley, L. (2018, April), Enhancing Diversity through Explicitly Designed Engineering Outreach Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--29533

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