June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Community Engagement Division
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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