June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Design in Engineering Education
11.704.1 - 11.704.8
How Women Perform on Individual Design Projects Compared to Men
The relative performances of males and females are analyzed for two individual projects in a sophomore engineering design class. The first project could be described as creative design for both groups and required the building, testing and describing of devices to tell time using the sun. The females outperformed the males by a considerable margin in all aspects of the project. In the second project, requiring the explanation and demonstration of devices (elements of drive trains) largely unfamiliar (by their own statements) to the females, the females faltered only slightly, relative to the males. However, the females overcame their initial deficiencies in experience and produced overall performances comparable to those of the males. These results indicate that these females are as well, if not better, suited for open ended, problem solving experiences than their males counterparts.
There is a leveling off in engineering graduates from universities in the United States at a time when engineers are in demand, and the demand for them is predicted to continue to grow. As a result, the demographics of the engineering workplace will need to change. One of the great untapped resources in this regard is women who traditionally have “under-chosen” (with respect to their fraction of the population) engineering as a profession. Women comprise about 20% of enrollment in the undergraduate engineering programs and only about 9% of the engineers in the workplace in the United States. 1 Some refer to institutional barriers2, differences in learning styles, “tradition,” or social issues3 for this under representation. Much attention has been focused on encouraging pre-college women to enter engineering programs, and even more effort has been expended in retaining them 4-7. However, all seem to agree that women are as academic qualified as men8 for an engineering career.
In a companion paper9 at this meeting the effect of the presence of women on the performance of design teams in a predominately male environment was examined. Overall performance was shown to have improved when women were part of the teams. Improvement was noted in all aspects of the project: improved testing performance, better quality artifacts, and improved communications. The objective of this paper is to demonstrate that women do as well and often better than men when it comes to individual design and “mechanical” projects.
The sophomore design class in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston requires a major design, fabricate and test (compete) team project which represents between 40% and 50% of the course grade. (More information on the course can be found in reference 10.) The course also requires at least one individual design project that represents between 15% and 20% of the course grade. This paper will report and compare the performances of women and men on two of these individual projects performed in the spring and fall semesters of 2003. For the first individual project, students (including ten women in a class on 38) were required to design, fabricate, and test two sun clocks to determine local time in
Bannerot, R. (2006, June), How Women Perform On Individual Design Projects Compared To Men Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--471
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