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Expanding Your Horizons: The Impact of a One-day STEM Conference on Middle School Girls’ and Parents’ Attitude Toward STEM Careers

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Factors Impacting Engineering Career Choices, Including Engaging Families

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.607.1 - 25.607.13



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Paper Authors


Lisa Massi University of Central Florida

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Lisa Massi is the Director of Operations Analysis in the UCF College of Engineering & Computer Science. Her primary responsibilities include accreditation, assessment, and data administration. She is a Co-PI of a NSF-funded S-STEM program at UCF entitled the ”Young Entrepreneur & Scholar (YES) Scholarship Program.” Her research interests include factors that impact student persistence to graduation and STEM career intentions.

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Charles H. Reilly University of Central Florida

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Charles H. Reilly is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Central Florida. He is also a professor of industrial engineering and management systems at UCF. He earned his Ph.D. in industrial engineering at Purdue University and previously served on the faculty at the Ohio State University. His principal areas of research are the simulation of optimization test problems and the empirical evaluation of optimization solution methods. Reilly is a member of ASEE and a Fellow of IIE and AAAS.

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Diane Johnson University of Central Florida

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Diane Johnson graduated from Florida International University with a degree in elementary education and in 1996 earned her master's degree through the Lockheed Martin Scholars Program at University of Central Florida. She is very active within the teaching community as a science trainer, workshop leader, and member of the 2002 & 2011 Orange County, Fla., science curriculum revision team. In the summer of 2008, Johnson put together a group of Orange County teachers and attended the INSPIRE program at Purdue University. Since attending the program, Johnson has become very passionate about bringing more STEM-based curriculum into the classroom and is a proud member of the INSPIRE TiR (Teacher in Residence) team, a research-based program at Purdue University dedicated to improving the quality of STEM curriculum and addressing the downward trends in engineering interest and preparedness. Along with teaching seventh grade science, she is now giving workshops to middle school teachers demonstrating how to incorporate more STEM-based learning into the curriculum. She is also one of the coordinators for Expanding Your Horizons, sponsored by the College of Engineering and Computer Science at University of Central Florida, an annual conference that encourages middle school age girls to realize their potential in science, technology, engineering, and math.

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Leslie Castner University of Central Florida

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Leslie Castner graduated from Duke University with a B.S. in computer science. She worked for IBM as a software developer on projects for the FAA and the petroleum industry. She is the Co-coordinator of Expanding Your Horizons at UCF, a one-day STEM conference for middle school girls. Castner has spent countless hours as a volunteer in many capacities, including ten years as a Girl Scout leader (most of them guiding two troops) and several years as a substitute teacher. Her background working with girls combined with her computer science degree gives her great insight into planning an engineering conference for middle school girls.

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Expanding Your Horizons: The Impact Of A One-Day STEM Conference On Middle School Girls’ and Parents’ Attitude Toward STEM CareersAbstractThis paper is based on a survey of 172 middle school girls and 38 parents who attended a one-day, Expanding Your Horizons (EYH conference) at a large, metropolitan, public university.The purpose of the EYH conference is to encourage girls to consider science, technology,engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. Pre-/post questions on the girls’ survey showedpositive gains after the conference in knowledge of the different STEM fields (57.4% gain),interest in studying STEM (29.5% gain), and confidence in their math skills (14.4% gain).Parents had a positive gain of 34.2% in knowledge of the different STEM fields after theconference, and 65% of parents thought that their daughter was likely to choose a STEM major.In a longitudinal study of EYH participants, Virnoche and Eschenbach1 found that interest inSTEM wanes over time, and one participant reported a diminished sense of self-confidence inher math and science skills. To sustain interest in STEM, multiple interventions need to beoffered over the high school years that involve parents. There is also a need for follow upoutreach activities that are structured to prepare girls for and retain girls in STEM pathways.

Massi, L., & Reilly, C. H., & Johnson, D., & Castner, L. (2012, June), Expanding Your Horizons: The Impact of a One-day STEM Conference on Middle School Girls’ and Parents’ Attitude Toward STEM Careers Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21364

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