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Identifying Engineering Interest And Potential In Middle School Students: Constructing And Validating An Instrument

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Assessment of K-12 Engineering Programs & Issues

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.663.1 - 15.663.15



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Paper Authors


Michele Strutz Purdue University

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Michele L. Strutz is a 2009 NSF Graduate Research Fellow and a doctoral student in Engineering Education, with a secondary doctoral focus in Gifted and Talented Education, at Purdue University. Michele's research interests include stEm talent development and identification. Prior to completing her Masters Degrees in Gifted and Talented Education and in Curriculum and Instruction, Michele worked as an engineer for 13 years in Laser Jet Printer marketing at Hewlett Packard Co., computer systems design at Arthur Andersen & Co., sulfuric acid plant engineering at Monsanto, and traffic engineering in the City of Cincinnati. Her positions in the high-tech field stemmed from her undergraduate degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics.

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Matthew Ohland Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and is the Past President of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. He received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996. Previously, he served as Assistant Director of the NSF-sponsored SUCCEED Engineering Education Coalition. He studies longitudinal student records in engineering education, team-member effectiveness, and the implementation of high-engagement teaching methods.

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Erin Bowen Purdue University


Eric Mann Purdue University

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Eric Mann is an Assistant Professor of Educational Studies at Purdue University; a member of faculty at both Purdue’s the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning and the Gifted Education Resource Institute. After completing a military career, he taught elementary and middle school for 7 years before entering the Ph.D. program in educational psychology at the University of Connecticut. He is interested in non-traditional identification and alternative programming for students who may have talent in the STEM disciplines but often go unrecognized with an emphasis in moving these students towards creative/innovative thought within the context of these disciplines.

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

Identifying Engineering Interest and Potential in Middle School Students: Constructing and Validating an Instrument Abstract

Due to the projected U.S. market demand in 2014 for 1.64 million engineering educated and trained individuals45, it is vital that we help children understand engineering concepts, explore career choices in the field of engineering, and determine if pursuing engineering would be a good fit for them.

Today’s curriculum is very focused on mathematics and writing due to the demands of standardized testing, however with a national interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) education, there is a movement to incorporate engineering into the curriculum. Since children make career choices by 7th grade57, integrating engineering concepts and engineering college education and career options into the K-6 curriculum are a necessary change.

One way to determine if engineering is a good fit is for a student to use a self-assessment instrument. A self-assessment tool helps an individual discover more about him/her self55. In making career choices, an assessment of one’s skills, interests, personality, and values influences career decisions9. Exploration of the literature reveals that an instrument for self-assessment of young engineering talent, interest, and fit does not exist.

The purpose of this research is to create an instrument to help fifth and sixth grade students identify themselves as having engineering interest and potential. The purpose of this instrument is to raise awareness of student interest and potential in engineering and is not intended to serve as a screening instrument. This work describes the instrument development, the input from the engineering and education communities in the context of content validity, the pilot and revision of the draft instrument, and the content validation of the final instrument.


Since Sputnik’s launch in 1957, our nation has focused on STEM education improvement. Key legislation, policies, and campaigns have been introduced during every presidential term, with the hopes that measurable gains will be made in our leadership position in the STEM fields.

The education focus in the STEM content areas, specifically engineering, is closely associated with the current focus on the engineering job market. The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts that by the year 2014, the United States will need approximately 1.64 million individuals who are engineering educated and trained to fill the engineering employment demand45. Based on the current pipeline, this country is facing a period of an inadequate supply of American engineers.

This shortage is due to several factors: a substantial number of baby boomer engineers are retiring12, there are not enough U.S. college students studying engineering today54, engineering is not a commonly understood profession26, the number of 16-24 year old U.S. workers is projected to decrease 6.9% from 2006 to 201650, the trend for graduates with advanced engineering

Strutz, M., & Ohland, M., & Bowen, E., & Mann, E. (2010, June), Identifying Engineering Interest And Potential In Middle School Students: Constructing And Validating An Instrument Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16065

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015