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Improving Engineering Recruitment

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Recruitment, Retention, and First-year Programs in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.745.1 - 25.745.13



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Paper Authors


Dale Anthony Carnegie Victoria University, Wellington

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Dale Carnegie is the Head of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. He founded and directs the Mechatronics Research Group. He has degrees in applied mathematics, theoretical physics, electronics, and computer ecience. His current areas of expertise include mechatronics, sensors, embedded control systems, and engineering education.

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Craig A. Watterson Victoria University, Wellington

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School of Engineering and Computer Science

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Improving Engineering RecruitmentAbstract— We are a relatively new engineering provider operating in an environment where engineering is notan option for high school study, there are strong existing providers nearby and engineering is generally notviewed as being a desirable vocation. To inspire and attract students, we conducted a comprehensive survey toinform a new marketing initiative. In response we formed a “geek-hero” theme in print and on-line. This wascomplemented by informative posters and an extremely successful outreach programme. Improving engineering recruitment is a challenge for many institutions internationally. We face severaladditional challenges. A significant factor is that engineering is not covered in our high school curricula.Students are able to participate in science and technology classes, but are generally unaware of howengineering is a distinct discipline. Also we are a relatively new engineering provider and so once we hadinspired students to consider tertiary engineering, we then had to attract them to our institution rather thanone of the more established providers. Our emphasis is on the “digital” areas of engineering, specifically electrical/electronic, mechatronics,networking and software. Our approach was necessarily two-pronged, one to inspire the students and anotherto convince the students’ influencers; their peers, parents, teachers and careers advisors who require a verydifferent approach. To inspire and attract the students, a novel approach to recruitment was required. A demographic studythat spanned both genders, a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and several ethnicities indicated thatstudents with an interest in, and ability to perform in these “digital” areas of engineering strongly identifiedwith and embraced being labeled “geeks”. A new website and booklet were subsequently developed to relatewith this identified geek culture – a major departure from the traditional marketing campaigns. The themewas “become a geek-hero”. The print-booklet embraced this theme in a fun-style, student-orientated mode.The new website, registered in the .geek domain, continued this student focused theme, however there is alsoa section that provides teaching and information resources for high school teachers. Our initial printing ofthe booklet was exhausted within a few months – substantially faster than the formal university prospectus. To augment the quirky geek-based publications, a series of informative posters were developed that willalso be illustrated during the conference presentation. The motivation is to get our university name and logointo the high schools so that the students began to associate engineering with our institution. The targetplacements were science and technology laboratories, mathematics classrooms and careers advisors offices.These posters cover basic Ohm’s law, digital data (emphasis on music and video storage), electroniccomponents, AC vs DC, conductors and superconductors, how the Internet works and how Facebook works.The acceptance on these posters has been extremely pleasing with many schools requesting additional copies. Our survey of first year students reaffirmed that outreach activities are a major influencer in students’enrolment decisions. A major initiative to improve the impact of our outreach activities was the developmentof 1500 micro-controller (Arduino) based electronic boards that were given to students to keep. The studentshad to finish the population of these boards, and in the process learn to read resistor and capacitor values, thefunction of various components, how to solder and other general electronic principles. After boardconstruction, the students created simple programs on the board using C and (in a later version) in Scratch.Class sets of a newer (fully assembled) version of the board were also made available to teachers who couldthen run in-class activities using this resource. The student survey responses were overwhelmingly positive. Our next intake into our engineering programme is in March, and the impact of enrolment from theseinitiatives will be available to be presented at the conference.

Carnegie, D. A., & Watterson, C. A. (2012, June), Improving Engineering Recruitment Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21502

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