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Generating Interest in ET Through High School Competitions

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Student Recruitment and Retention in ET Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.817.1 - 26.817.7



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Paper Authors


Alka R Harriger Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Alka Harriger joined the faculty of the Computer and Information Technology Department (CIT) in 1982 and is currently a Professor of CIT. For the majority of that time, she has been actively involved in teaching software development courses. From 2008-2014, she led the NSF-ITEST funded SPIRIT (Surprising Possibilities Imagined and Realized through Information Technology) project. Since October 2013, she has been co-leading with Prof. Brad Harriger the NSF-ITEST funded TECHFIT (Teaching Engineering Concepts to Harness Future Innovators and Technologists) project. Professor Harriger's current interests include application development, outreach to K-12 to interest more students to pursue computing careers, applying IT skills to innovating fitness tools, and wearable computing.

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Bradley C. Harriger Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Brad Harriger has over 30 years of experience teaching automated manufacturing and has authored/co-authored several related articles. Professor Harriger has served in several leadership roles with Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the American Society for Engineering Education, and is a founding member of an international Aerospace Automation Consortium, serving on its steering committee for several years. He has invested over twenty-five years in the development and maintenance of a multimillion dollar manufacturing laboratory facility complete with a full scale, fully integrated manufacturing system. Professor Harriger has been a Co-PI on two NSF funded grants focused on aerospace manufacturing education and is currently a Co-PI on the NSF funded TECHFIT project, a middle school afterschool program that teaches students how to use programmable controllers and other technologies to design exercise games. Additionally, he co-organizes multiple regional automation competitions for an international controls company.

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Generating Interest in ET through High School CompetitionsFinding ways to generate interest in Engineering Technology (ET) is an ongoing challenge for manycolleges and universities. Starting early is always recommended; however, employing recruitmentinitiatives even in high school may yield success when the right motivators are used. Having strongcorporate partnerships not only enables delivery of specialized programs but also strengthens the messagefrom both an academic and industry perspective.The authors partnered with an international manufacturing company that offered a national competition tohigh school students as part of their STEM outreach. Although the event was labeled as being national,the vast majority of teams were located near the company’s headquarters. The recruitment begins inOctober and the final contest is in mid-February. There are several checkpoints along the way whichdetermine whether a team has accomplished enough to stay in the contest.In 2012, the company invited the authors to help them make the competition more structured andselective by adding regional competitions that would send their best teams to the national contest.Although the timetable for the national contest was already well underway, if the authors could recruit atleast four teams, they would support a regional contest for that competition cycle. Within a week, theauthors were able to recruit thirteen teams, so a regional competition was instituted. One or more teamsdropped out at each of the checkpoints along the way, but by the time of the regional tournament, fourteams still remained. The top two regional teams were able to compete in the national contest, and bothplaced in the top five among a pool of nearly twenty teams.Competing student teams employed their creativity and technical knowledge to innovate products thataddressed the specifications defined by the company. In the process, the students learned more aboutopportunities to pursue ET fields of study that would enable them to have careers related to the funexperience of the competition.In 2013, the industry partner added a second regional site, so the top three teams from each regioncompeted in the national contest in February 2014. The authors’ regional began with a pool of 18 teamsof which 9 satisfied requirements at all checkpoints to compete in the nationals. Based on the successes ofthe 2014 regional framework, the industry partner added a third regional, also managed by the authors.The authors believe this type of competition is a good way to forge strong relationships with a corporatepartner while simultaneously sparking student interest in ET. More details about the contest, includingupdates regarding the status of the current competition, will be presented in the paper and presentation.

Harriger, A. R., & Harriger, B. C. (2015, June), Generating Interest in ET Through High School Competitions Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24154

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