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Giving Back: Engaging Young Women Engineers In Community Based Design

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Retention: Keeping the Women Students

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.598.1 - 8.598.10



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Paper Authors

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Meredith Aronson

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Marie Reyes

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Jeff Goldberg

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

Session 1392

Giving Back: Engaging Young Women Engineers in Community-based Design

Meredith Aronson1, Marie Reyes2, Jeff Goldberg3 1 Department of Materials Science and Engineering/ 3 Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering College of Engineering and Mines University of Arizona 2 Southwest Institute for Research On Women University of Arizona


Starting in 2001, the Virtual Development Center (VDC) at the University of Arizona committed itself to increasing retention of women students through improving the quality of educational experiences. Our approach was to develop programming and coursework for cohorts of women engineering undergraduates. We focus on opportunities both within and outside the curriculum spanning the 4 undergraduate years: in building community during the freshman year, and in building commitment to engineering by focusing on community projects during the sophomore, junior, and senior years. At this point, we have implemented our junior and senior programs. The basic process starts with a 1-day "innovation workshop" led by facilitators from the Institute for Women and Technology. Next we have a 1-semester class organized around getting to know the client and developing a needs statement and a requirements document. We finish with a 1-year class where a team designs and builds a system or device to meet all requirements. Our first VDC team had six women students and engaged in developing an information system for a "Promotora" group in Nogales Arizona (providers of lay health care and health information). The team completed development of a requirements document in May 2002 and this has since been passed to a mixed-gender design team (led by women from our team). The project will be completed in May 2003. We ramped up the requirements-design cycle with fifteen new students and three new clients in November 2002. This paper outlines the rationale for this work, describes the specific approaches, goals, and outcomes of our early program activities, and reports on our early evaluation efforts.

The Problem: Recruiting and Retention of Women

In a world of expanding technological demands, the US is facing an increasing shortage of technologically-trained workers. At the same time the National Science Foundation (NSF) has published biannual reports documenting that women, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific


Aronson, M., & Reyes, M., & Goldberg, J. (2003, June), Giving Back: Engaging Young Women Engineers In Community Based Design Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12680

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