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Evolving a Summer Engineering Camp through Assessment

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Broadening Participation of Minority Students in and with K-12 Engineering

Tagged Divisions

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering and Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.658.1 - 22.658.15



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Paper Authors


Katherine C. Chen California Polytechnic State University

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Katherine Chen is a professor of Materials Engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She received her degrees from Michigan State University and MIT. She is active in outreach and informal science education programs.

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Lizabeth T. Schlemer California Polytechnic State University


Heather Scott Smith California Polytechnic State University

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Department of Statistics

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Teana Fredeen California Polytechnic State University

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Teana Fredeen graduated from Cal Poly State University in 1990 with B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering. She spent 15 years in technical sales and marketing for Ziatech Corporation, Intel Corporation and Norcast Communications. As the Outreach Coordinator for Cal Poly's College of Engineering in 2008 - 2009, Teana helped develop the EPIC - Engineering Possibilities in College - summer camp for high school students. Now, in its fifth year, the EPIC program continues to draw underrepresented students to its program, which educates and inspires students to pursue careers in engineering.

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Evolving a Summer Engineering Camp through AssessmentWe have been running a week-long, summer day camp for four years, and have been usingsurveys to help make data-driven decisions about changes to the camp. Assessments haveproven extremely useful in helping to define the goals and outcomes of the camp, as well asmeasuring how well we are achieving them. The camp first originated out of the desire toencourage more high school females and under-represented groups to consider engineering, andthe program started out very small. The camp then quickly grew in terms of students attendingand faculty from different engineering disciplines participating, as well as different campactivities.Pre-camp surveys were tied to registration, and we were able to learn about the campparticipants’ backgrounds, attitudes, and expectations early to inform the faculty developing theirlab activities. We discovered that most of the high school students were already planning tostudy engineering, but wanted to learn about the different types of engineering to better choose aspecific discipline. Thus, the lab activities needed to give a good overview and be representativeof the field versus a specialized subtopic. Post-camp surveys revealed that the number ofdifferent engineering disciplines that the high school students were familiar with dramaticallyrose after the camp.Earlier surveys also included more open-ended questions to probe how the camp participantsdefined engineering, what they thought engineers do, and what personal traits they thought madea successful engineer. From their free responses, we were then able to create survey questionsfor the following year that involved ranking certain phrases in order gather quantitative statistics.Word clouds were also generated to visually see the most common responses to questions posedbefore and after the camp. For example words gathered for the “important personal traits neededto become an engineer” on the word cloud showed the word “creativity” overwhelmingly largein the post-camp survey.Likert scales were also used to assess attitudes on working on a team, desire to work on open-ended projects without set answers, confidence in their ability to be an engineer, and plans tostudy engineering in college. Some interesting results were revealed when the responses (orvariables of interest) were analyzed for associations with gender, ethnicity, family members whowent to college, and family members who are engineers.Our latest efforts have been to examine the “message” about engineering that the participants getor experience from the camp. Some attempt has been made to demonstrate how engineers helppeople and the planet, and the assessment data helps determine which program events areeffective and will guide improvements for future years.

Chen, K. C., & Schlemer, L. T., & Smith, H. S., & Fredeen, T. (2011, June), Evolving a Summer Engineering Camp through Assessment Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17939

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