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Impact-Driven Engineering Students: Contributing Behavioral Correlates

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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

Community Engagement Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Eric Reynolds Brubaker Stanford University Orcid 16x16

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Eric is a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford interested in engineering design, manufacturing, entrepreneurship, and engineering education. From 2011 to 2016, Eric worked at MIT D-Lab where he co-developed and taught two courses and was a lab instructor in Mechanical Engineering. Additionally, he managed the MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups hardware venture accelerator supporting full-time social entrepreneurs primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa and India. Eric has worked extensively in less-industrialized economies, most notably Zambia. Previously, he worked at Battelle Memorial Institute and New England Complex Systems Institute. A proud Buckeye, Eric is a graduate of The Ohio State University (BSME 2009) and recipient of a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2016).

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Mark Schar Stanford University

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The focus of Mark’s research can broadly be described as “pivot thinking,” the cognitive aptitudes and abilities that encourage innovation, and the tension between design engineering and business management cognitive styles. To encourage these thinking patterns in young engineers, Mark has developed a Scenario Based Learning curriculum that attempts to blend core engineering concepts with selected business ideas. Mark is also researches empathy and mindfulness and its impact on gender participation in engineering education. He is a Lecturer in the School of Engineering at Stanford University and teaches the course ME310x Product Management and ME305 Statistics for Design Researchers.

Mark has extensive background in consumer products management, having managed more than 50 consumer driven businesses over a 25-year career with The Procter & Gamble Company. In 2005, he joined Intuit, Inc. as Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer and initiated a number of consumer package goods marketing best practices, introduced the use of competitive response modeling and "on-the-fly" A|B testing program to qualify software improvements.

Mark is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of One Page Solutions, a consulting firm that uses the OGSP® process to help technology and branded product clients develop better strategic plans. Mark is a member of The Band of Angels, Silicon Valley's oldest organization dedicated exclusively to funding seed stage start-ups. In addition, he serves on the board of several technology start-up companies.

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Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

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Sheri D. Sheppard, Ph.D., P.E., is professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Besides teaching both undergraduate and graduate design and education related classes at Stanford University, she conducts research on engineering education and work-practices, and applied finite element analysis. From 1999-2008 she served as a Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, leading the Foundation’s engineering study (as reported in Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field). In addition, in 2011 Dr. Sheppard was named as co-PI of a national NSF innovation center (Epicenter), and leads an NSF program at Stanford on summer research experiences for high school teachers. Her industry experiences includes engineering positions at Detroit's "Big Three:" Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Chrysler Corporation.

At Stanford she has served a chair of the faculty senate, and recently served as Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

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Engineering has a long history of developing solutions to meet societal needs, and humanity currently faces many and varied societal challenges. Who are the engineering students motivated to address such challenges? This study explores a sample of 5,819 undergraduate engineering students from a survey administered in 2015 to a nationally representative set of twenty-seven U.S. engineering schools. The survey was developed to study the background, learning experiences, academic activities and proximal influences that motivate an engineering undergraduate student to pursue innovative work post-graduation. As part of this survey students indicated their interest in pursuing work that addresses societal challenges. A step-wise regression analysis is used to predict interest in societal impact and by contrast interest in financial potential with respect to 71 demographic, background and academic experience variables. The results confirm previous studies – a large majority of engineering undergraduates are interested in impact-driven work with an over-representation of female and under-represented minority students.

This study sheds new light on the background and academic experiences that predict interest in impact-driven as compared to financially-driven engineering work. It is found that experiences promoting a service ethic and broadening oneself outside of engineering are important predictors of interest in impact-driven work. What is less expected is the significant importance of innovation interests and innovation self-efficacy for engineering students interested in creating societal impact. Deeper exploration reveals that certain academic experiences and proximal influences have a direct and significant effect on a student’s interest in impact-driven work, and this relationship is strengthened by the partial mediation of innovation self-efficacy. As such, this study suggests that the development of innovation self-efficacy is important in cultivating engineering students who are interested in impact-driven work, and to a lesser extent, financially-driven work. These findings have implications for how engineering educators and employers attract, inspire, and equip future engineers, particularly female and under-represented minority students.

Brubaker, E. R., & Schar, M., & Sheppard, S. (2017, June), Impact-Driven Engineering Students: Contributing Behavioral Correlates Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28473

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