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High School Extracurricular Activities and Camps Related to Engineering, Math and Science: Do They Help Retention and Performance in Engineering? (Fundamental)

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-College: Perceptions and Attitudes on the Pathway to Engineering (1)

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Nora Honken University of Cincinnati

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Nora is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering Education Department at The University of Cincinnati. She holds a PhD in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development for the University of Louisville, a MS in Industrial Engineering from Arizona State University and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Virginia Tech. She also has extensive industrial experience.

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Patricia A. Ralston University of Louisville

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Dr. Patricia A. S. Ralston is Professor and Chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at the University of Louisville. She received her B.S., MEng, and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville. Dr. Ralston teaches undergraduate engineering mathematics and is currently involved in educational research on the effective use of technology in engineering education, the incorporation of critical thinking in undergraduate engineering education, and retention of engineering students. She leads a research group whose goal is to foster active interdisciplinary research which investigates learning and motivation and whose findings will inform the development of evidence-based interventions to promote retention and student success in engineering. Her fields of technical expertise include process modeling, simulation, and process control.

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Millions of dollars have been spent by agencies of the federal government, corporations and individuals to fund or pay for activities and camps to introduce high school students to, and deepen interest in, engineering and engineering related topics. This paper investigates whether engineering students who participate in these activities and camps have a higher probability of being retained in engineering or perform better in engineering courses compared to students who did not participate. During the first week of their first year in college, 2 cohorts of engineering students (2012 and 2013) at a large metropolitan research university were surveyed as part of a larger study to improve retention and graduation rate in engineering. Within the survey, engineering students were asked if in high school they had participated in any summer camps or extracurricular activities related to math, science, engineering, or computer science (including robotics). Response rates both years were over 90%. Data on retention in engineering and GPA were extracted from student records. The data will be analyzed to determine if the first year retention rate or performance of the students who did participate in these camps or activities was significantly different from those who did not. Analysis will also be performed to determine if the change in interest from the start of the first semester to the end was different for students who did and did not participate in activities and camps. Although students can gain multiple benefits from extracurricular activities and camps, such as friendship, belonging, and improved critical thinking, many of the funders are hoping to also increase interest in pursuing engineering as a career. This study will give us insight into whether or not participation in these programs is related to a student’s retention or performance in engineering.

Honken, N., & Ralston, P. A. (2017, June), High School Extracurricular Activities and Camps Related to Engineering, Math and Science: Do They Help Retention and Performance in Engineering? (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27419

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