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Evaluation on a New Virtual Program Format: How Does an Engineering Summer Program Evolve and Adapt to Meet the Needs of an Increasingly Diverse Student Population During a Pandemic? (Evaluation, Diversity)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Technical Session 11

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Maria Manzano California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Maria Manzano is the Director of Engineering Special Programs and EPIC program where she works to develop programs to reach out to pre-college students to encourage them to pursue engineering in college. She is involved with a variety of diversity and inclusion efforts in the college of Engineering ranging from student support programs, and diversity and undocumented student training. Prior to her current position, she served as Director of the Multicultural Engineering Program where she worked with undergraduate engineering students in retention efforts. She received her M.A. from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and B.A. from the University of California in Santa Barbara.

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Emma Della

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Gerome Cacho

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Drew Miller


Dennis Derickson California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Dennis Derickson is a Professor of Electrical Engineering at California Polytechnic State University. He received his Ph.D. , MS, and BS in electrical engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Wisconsin and South Dakota State respectively. He got his start in Electrical Engineering by getting his amateur radio license in 1975 (AC0P) and continues to develop amateur radio activities as a tool in ECE education.

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Engineering Possibilities in College (EPIC) is a summer program designed to encourage middle and high school students to consider pursuing engineering in college. EPIC began in 2007 as a day program and has grown to serve 720 students each summer with multiple one-week fully residential sessions. Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, when most universities simply shut down their engineering summer pre-college programs, EPIC swiftly changed its programming to a fully virtual program serving over 400 students. Intensive home-laboratory activities with mechanical, electrical, and software elements were created. In three months, the project team went from skeptics to strong advocates of a virtual summer program. In an effort to increase diversity in students underrepresented in Engineering, EPIC has been partnering with programs such as the Migrant Education Program (MEP) and Advanced Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. The MEP is a federal program providing academic support to children of migrant workers in agriculture, dairy, or fishing industries. The AVID program provides extensive support to minority, rural, low-income, and other students without a college-going tradition in their families who have the desire to go to college. MEP and AVID students typically experience frequent relocation as their parents find work, and for many students, English is their second language. Furthermore, for most students, it was their first experience with a virtual engineering summer program. The new virtual format exposed a new set of inequalities among students from MEP and AVID. These inequalities included but are not limited to: prior-exposure to technology, access to Wi-Fi, restrictions on school issued devices, and resources in their home to support projects. In an attempt to ensure a positive experience for all students, the team provided inclusivity training, translated camp materials in Spanish, hired bilingual staff, offered a Spanish engineering lab, and remained flexible in the daily lesson plans to improve their understanding of the engineering concepts. The team will share reflections, lessons learned, and present steps taken in preparation for a new virtual summer program keeping in mind the challenges students face. In addition, the team will examine how effective those steps were in planning a virtual program. Preliminary data from pre/post surveys will be presented to help highlight what prospered and areas of refinement. The team will consider a few important questions: How does a virtual engineering summer program meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population? How can observations and experiences of EPIC staff help improve the program? What essential steps are needed to achieve our goals of being inclusive? How can you deliver an engineering virtual summer program that creates similar outcomes as an in-person program? The University and EPIC embraced the parameters set by COVID-19 and discovered that virtual program delivery modes are compelling. When COVID-19 restrictions end, the virtual program model will continue to thrive into the future as a complement to in-person University Engineering summer programs.

Manzano, M., & Della, E., & Cacho, G., & Miller, D., & Derickson, D. (2021, July), Evaluation on a New Virtual Program Format: How Does an Engineering Summer Program Evolve and Adapt to Meet the Needs of an Increasingly Diverse Student Population During a Pandemic? (Evaluation, Diversity) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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