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Impact of a Hands-On, Exploratory Engineering Outreach Program on Knowledge and Attitudes of High School Students (RTP)

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Outreach in K12 through College Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Melissa Danforth California State University - Bakersfield

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Dr. Melissa Danforth is an Associate Professor and the Chair of the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB). Dr. Danforth is the PI for a NSF Federal Cyber Service grant (NSF-DUE1241636) to create models for information assurance education and outreach. Dr. Danforth is the Project Director for a U.S. Department of Education grant (P031S100081) to create engineering pathways for students in the CSUB service area. She is also the co-PI for an NSF IUSE grant (NSF-DUE1430398) to improve STEM retention and graduation, the Activities Director for a U.S. Department of Education MSEIP grant (P120A110050) to develop an engineering calculus sequence and engineering outreach programs, and the Summer Program Director for another MSEIP grant (P120A140051) to improve pre-calculus and provide research opportunities for first and second year students. Her research interests are focused on network and system security, particularly with respects to protecting mission-critical resources and services. She is also conducting research in applying biological concepts to cybersecurity, such as artificial immune systems.

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Charles Lam California State University - Bakersfield

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Dr. Charles C.Y. Lam is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics at CSU Bakersfield. Dr. Lam received his Ph.D. in Combinatorics and Optimization from the University of Waterloo. His research areas are in cryptography, digital watermarking, and combinatorics. He has mentored various undergraduate student researchers as a faculty mentor for the LSAMP and McNair Scholars Program. He has extensive experience in curriculum assessment, undergraduate curriculum development, and student mentoring.

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Hani Mehrpouyan P.E. California State University - Bakersfield

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{Hani Mehrpouyan} (S'05-M'10) received his B.Sc. honours degree in computer engineering from Simon Fraser University, Canada in 2004 and the PhD degree in electrical engineering from Queen's University, Canada in 2010. From 2010-2012 he was a Post-Doc at the Department of Signal and Systems at Chalmers University of Technology where he lead the MIMO aspects of the microwave backhauling for next generation wireless networks project. He was also a visiting scholar at the University of Luxembourg in 2012, where he was involved in research related to interference cancelation for next generation satellite communication links. Since August of 2012 he has been an Assistant Professor at the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering at California State University, Bakersfield. Dr. Mehrpouyan has received more than 10 scholarships and awards. He has more than 30 publications in prestigious IEEE Journals and Conferences. His current research interests lie in the area of applied signal processing and physical layer of millimeter-wave communication systems, synchronization, channel estimation, interference cancelation, and performance optimization. For more information refer to

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Ronald Hughes

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(2009-Present) Associate Professor for the STEM Affinity Group, School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, California State University, Bakersfield. Duties included teaching responsibilities in Undergraduate Biology, Graduate Level Science Curriculum, Philosophy, and Issues; Elementary and Secondary Science Methods; Student Teacher Supervision, and Educational Technology. Additional duties included grant writing, management, and evaluation; and university committees.

Include teaching and learning cognition skills, informal learning environments and strategies, and curriculum design.

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Four years ago, the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (CEE/CS) at California State University, Bakersfield began an outreach program targeted towards high school students interested in engineering. This program was created as part of the grant activities for the Department of Education grant Y, which has concluded. The intent of the program was to encourage more local students, particularly underrepresented minorities and women, to attend college and pursue engineering degrees.

The outreach program was modeled after previous work that was shown to increase interest in engineering disciplines for women and underrepresented minorities. A major focus of the program was the use of hands-on activities to engage students. As we previously reported, the first year of the program focused on robotics. In subsequent years, we enhanced the program to utilize a wide variety of engineering projects in the areas of electronics, combustion engines, electromagnetism, power systems, and robotics.

Students participating in the outreach activity completed pre- and post-surveys. After analyzing the surveys for the initial year of the program, the surveys were retooled in the 2012/13 academic year to capture more data. The updated surveys contained questions to assess knowledge of engineering concepts and attitudes towards engineering and college, as well as background information questions.

The results for the updated surveys from the summers of 2013 to 2015 are analyzed in this paper. A total of 55 students completed the pre-survey and 51 students completed the post-survey. The majority of the participants had just completed either their sophomore or junior year of high school. A majority had completed mathematics through Algebra 2, and had also completed biology and chemistry. Less than half of the students had participated in previous STEM activities.

On the pre-survey, 98% of the students were interested or very interested in college. Comparing the responses on the pre- and post-surveys, the interest in attending University X increased as a result of participating in the activity. There was a very slight decrease in the interest in engineering as a major, with 72.7% interested on the pre-survey and 68.6% interested on the post-survey, but there was a corresponding increase in the interest in other STEM majors, such as mathematics and science, on the post-survey. This implies that the program helped the students to better understand the field of study associated with STEM majors, while still maintaining a high level of interest in engineering.

A total of 8 knowledge questions, covering engineering topics ranging from combustion engines to transistors, were asked on the pre- and post-surveys. The average score for the knowledge questions increased from 1.2 (“Novice”) on the pre-survey to 2.8 (“Apprentice/Proficient”) on the post-survey. Additionally, the average percentage of “Unsure/No Answer” responses decreased from 60.5% on the pre-survey to 22.3% on the post-survey. Looking at individual knowledge questions, the decrease in “Unsure/No Answer” responses was greater for concepts that were directly reinforced by the hands-on activities, such as building a model of a combustion engine or using a breadboard to create a circuit.

Danforth, M., & Lam, C., & Mehrpouyan, H., & Hughes, R. (2016, June), Impact of a Hands-On, Exploratory Engineering Outreach Program on Knowledge and Attitudes of High School Students (RTP) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25528

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