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Extracurricular Engineering Activities and College Success

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Out-of-school-time Engineering: Implications for Underrepresented Students

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Armanda Gonzalez University of Michigan

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Armanda Gonzalez received her B.S. in Information Science from the School of Information & Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is currently working towards her M.S. in Information with a specialization in Human-Computer Interaction at The University of Michigan School of Information. She is currently a User Experience specialist at JOOL Health.

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Joanna Mirecki Millunchick University of Michigan

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Joanna Mirecki Millunchick is a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan. She is the current Academic Director for M-STEM Academies, a program devoted to strengthening and diversifying the cohort of students who receive their baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

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It is commonly thought that the most fulfilling and beneficial experiences that students have in college occur outside of the classroom. While there is a vibrant literature on the effects of extracurricular activities in middle and high school, the perceived benefits of participating in professional engineering societies and student design teams, for instance, in college are largely based on anecdotal evidence and speculation. We conducted an observational study to address the paucity of data in this realm. Specifically, we use quantitative data (admissions data and academic records) to determine what kind of students tend to participate in engineering-based extra-curricular activities, and whether that participation is related to college success.

Eight teams where examined in this study. Six were chosen because they attract the largest populations of students, and the other two were included because they serve underrepresented minority (URM) groups. In total, 739 students (or 12 % of the total engineering population of a large research university) constitute the participant group.

Several factors were examined. It was found that women and URMs participate in most teams in proportions similar to their fraction of the engineering population. Two exceptions were found. Unsurprisingly, there is a much higher proportion of women and URMs in group-specific professional societies (women in the Society of Women Engineers, for instance). In addition, teams focused on sustainable, human-centric design, attracts of higher proportion of women, consistent with the commonly held belief that female engineers are more attracted to altruistic and/or humanistic engineering applications. Another finding is that academic factors such as ACT/SAT scores, high school GPA, etc, are the same in both groups, but team participants tend to come from more highly educated and affluent families. While the breakdown of class standing (freshman, sophomore, etc.) is the same in the participant and non-participant groups, teams have a somewhat larger proportion of first year students. That is, there is a higher proportion of first year sophomores participating in extracurricular activities.

Another finding is that students who participate in engineering extracurricular activities also take a different sequence of courses than the norm. For instance, they tend to take higher level Chemistry and non-technical courses in their freshman year. A consequence is that these students tend have higher GPAs, because these coursestend to award higher grades.

Gonzalez, A., & Millunchick, J. M. (2016, June), Extracurricular Engineering Activities and College Success Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26875

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