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Gifted Students’ Perceptions Of Engineers ? A Study Of Students In A Summer Outreach Program

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Engineering in Elementary Schools

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.784.1 - 12.784.13



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Paper Authors


Euridice Oware Purdue University

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Euridice Oware is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from Washington University and M.S. in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in structures and transportation from Purdue University.

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Brenda Capobianco Purdue University

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Dr. Brenda Capobianco is an Assistant Professor in Science Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Affiliated Faculty in Women's Studies at Purdue University.

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Heidi Diefes-Dux Purdue University

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Heidi Diefes-Dux is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education (ENE) at Purdue University with a joint appointment in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE). She is the chair of the ENE Graduate Committee and she is a member of the Teaching Academy at Purdue. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Food Science from Cornell University and her Ph.D. from ABE in 1997. Her research interests include open-ended problem solving, evaluation of education technology, and first-year and graduate curriculum development.

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

Gifted Students’ Perceptions of Engineers - A Study of Students in a Summer Outreach Program


The Gifted Education Resource Institute (GERI) at Purdue University holds several summer outreach classes for gifted elementary and secondary school students. The program gives students access to challenging science, mathematics, computer, and humanities classes. The purpose of this study is to investigate 3rd and 4th grade GERI students’ perceptions of engineers for students enrolled in various Summer 2006 classes. This qualitative study was conducted using a constructivist theoretical framework. Eighteen students completed a background questionnaire, drew an engineer doing engineering work, and discussed engineering in an individual interview. Data analysis was conducted using content analysis, which included axial coding and categorizing data presented in student drawings, interviews, and questionnaires. Results show that students held common misconceptions about engineers while others were knowledgeable about what engineers do. Data also revealed sources of students’ knowledge about engineering, including personal experiences with engineers, as key factors that contribute to their current conceptions. This study provides insight on children’s perceptions about engineers and provides implications for developing engineering education curriculum at the elementary school level.


Engineering is key to developing and improving scientific and technological products and services that maintain and improve the lives of people in society. According to the National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, sustained expertise in science and engineering are fundamental to maintaining American’s high standard of living and the economy - yet “the scientific and technological building blocks critical to our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength.” 1 Some warn that there is a gap between the needed number of scientists, engineers, and other technical professionals and the actual production of these professionals. 2 Also, employment growth of the science and engineering workforce will slow if trends such as retirement and degree trends continue. 3

Misconceptions and stereotypes about engineering within the American culture make it more difficult to attract students to engineering. Students in U.S. elementary and secondary classrooms often have not been exposed to engineering which may in turn contribute to the development of engineering misconceptions. 4 Many people do not understand the breadth of opportunities available in engineering. For example, certain engineering fields are not very well- known, such as materials engineering and industrial engineering. 5 When students actually do hear about engineering, they are often presented with information that does not exhibit engineering in a positive manner. Some K-12 students are discouraged from becoming engineers due to a fear of math, belief that there is too much work involved in engineering, the stereotype that engineers are all nerds, or lack of knowledge about what engineers actually do. A lack of understanding about engineering leads to students entering postsecondary education being unable

Oware, E., & Capobianco, B., & Diefes-Dux, H. (2007, June), Gifted Students’ Perceptions Of Engineers ? A Study Of Students In A Summer Outreach Program Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2656

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