Asee peer logo

Gains In Knowledge And Perception Of Engineering After Participation In An Engineering Design Web Experience Are Gender Dependent

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Gender and Minority Issues in K-12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.610.1 - 15.610.16



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Kimberly Edginton Bigelow University of Dayton

visit author page

Kimberly Edginton Bigelow is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Dayton. Her focus area is biomechanical engineering. Kim teaches the freshmen engineering design experience and is involved in a number of K-12 engineering outreach activities.

visit author page


Gail Wheatley Edheads

visit author page

Gail Wheatley is the founder and President of Edheads (, a website featuring interactive educational activities focused on science and technology. She has 23 years experience in informal science education centers such as museums and nature centers. She has a passion for making education fun and engaging.

visit author page


David Tomasko The Ohio State University

visit author page

David Tomasko is Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Services in the College of Engineering at the Ohio State University. He previously served as Director of the Honors Collegium.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Gains in Knowledge and Perception of Engineering after Participation in an Engineering Design Web-Experience are Gender-Dependent


Web-based activities have the potential to teach engineering in both formal and informal science education settings, maximizing outreach efforts. To date, many activities available on the internet teach about engineering, but few allow students to truly “do” engineering. This project utilized web animation and interaction in the design of a web-based experience focused on engineering design. In this activity, targeted toward middle school students, users played the role of engineer and engaged in the process of designing a cell phone for the older adult market. It was hoped that this web-based activity would increase participant understanding of what engineering is and the steps of the engineering design process, while also encouraging students to consider engineering-related careers. An additional aim of this study was to determine whether the web-based application and the object of design (a cell phone) would appeal to female students as much as it would to male students.

To test this, 162 middle-school students participated in the web-experience. Summative measures were taken pre- and post- activity using an on-line web-based survey to test their knowledge of engineering design and the engineering design process. The post-survey also asked additional questions to determine students’ perceptions of engineering and also perceptions of the web activity. Data were analyzed for the central tendencies of each question, item and scale means, and cross tabulated to identify statistically significant differences between the responses of male and female students.

Prior to the web-based experience female students had a higher base-line knowledge of what engineering is than male students (p = 0.026), however after participation in the activity there were no statistically significant gender-based differences. The activity did increase understanding of engineering in the group as a whole, with a mean increase from 5.12 out of 10 correct responses on the pre-test to 7.10 out of 10 (p = 0.000). Regarding the web-experience, female students tended to express better perceptions of the elements of the activity, but these differences were not statistically significant. Despite the activity, female students exhibited less positive perceptions of engineering and engineering as a career than male students. They were less likely to feel they could become an engineer if they wanted to (0.005), to see themselves in an engineering-related career (p < 0.000), and to see themselves as an engineer (p <0.000) compared to their male counterparts.

These results suggest that female middle-school students have a better base knowledge of what engineering is than male students, and that a web-based engineering experience can improve understanding in both genders. Both female and male students perceived the website activity positively, which promotes future use of this educational means. Future work is needed to determine how similar activities can be altered to better address the disparity in perceptions of engineering as a career between genders.

Edginton Bigelow, K., & Wheatley, G., & Tomasko, D. (2010, June), Gains In Knowledge And Perception Of Engineering After Participation In An Engineering Design Web Experience Are Gender Dependent Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15716

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015