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Inspiring A Diverse Population Of High School Students To Choose Engineering As A Career Path

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Successful Mentoring and Outreach Programs for Girls and Minorities

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.743.1 - 14.743.15



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Paper Authors


Katherine Chen California Polytechnic State University

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Katherine C. Chen is Professor and Chair of the Materials Engineering Department at the California Polytechnic ("Cal Poly") State University, San Luis Obispo. She received a B.A. in Chemistry and a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan State University. Her Ph.D. is in Materials Science from MIT. She has strong interest in and is very active in outreach activities.

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Daniel Belter California Polytechnic State University

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Daniel Belter is an undergraduate student in the Statistics Department at the California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) State University, San Luis Obispo. In addition to his formal coursework in statistics, Daniel is involved in a variety of projects, applying his statistical knowledge to address practical problems. His work on this paper was part of his Senior Project efforts.

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Teana Fredeen California Polytechnic State University

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Teana A. Fredeen is the Outreach Coordinator for the College of Engineering at the California Polytechnic ("Cal Poly") State University, San
Luis Obispo. She received a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering at Cal Poly in 1991. She has worked in technical sales and marketing for 15 years in the embedded computer and telecommunications industry. For the past four years, she has been a telecommunications consultant. She is passionate about engineering outreach to K-12 students and has increased the outreach activity for Cal Poly's College of Engineering over the past year.

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Heather Smith California Polytechnic State University

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Heather S. Smith is a Senior Lecturer and Statistical Consultant in the Statistics Department at the California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) State University, San Luis Obispo. She received a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Florida and an M.S. in Statistics from the Florida State University. For seven years she worked as a statistical consultant for Westat, Inc. a research organization, in Rockville, Maryland. Thirteen years ago to she joined the Statistics faculty at Cal Poly. She is an active participant in research involving a broad range of engineering and educational projects.

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Shirley Magnusson California Polytechnic State University

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Shirley J. Magnusson is a Professor of Science and Mathematics Teaching Education in the College of Education at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in science education from the University of Iowa and the University of Maryland, respectively. She is nationally known for the development and study of student learning from novel text-based materials for use in inquiry-based instruction that were modeled after the notebooks of scientists. Her current work is exploring how to integrate engineering with science in the elementary curriculum in a way that empowers children and supports teachers in finding time to teach science.

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

Inspiring a Diverse Population of High School Students to Choose Engineering as a Career Path

Abstract A week-long, summer day-program was created to expose and inspire high school students to consider engineering as a career path. The goals of the program were to 1) bring high school students of diverse backgrounds to our university campus, 2) excite kids about engineering as a profession that is creative and helps society, 3) expose students to different engineering disciplines, 4) provide positive experiences with hands-on engineering activities, and 5) encourage and help prepare the young students to study engineering in college. Extensive recruiting was performed by the College of Engineering Outreach Coordinator, who visited targeted schools and developed relationships with teachers and counselors. As a result, 55% of the program attendees were from underrepresented groups, including 29% female students. To support underrepresented and first-generation students, numerous scholarships and transportation were provided by industry partners.

Ten different engineering disciplines were highlighted as different hands-on lab activities. Current university engineering students assisted as program counselors and acted as role models to the program attendees. In addition, campus tours, industry tours, seminars, and recreational time were built into the schedule. The program culminated in a Showcase open to the public, friends, and family where the program attendees could share their experiences and display their work.

While the goals for the program were met, we also researched what type of impact the program had on the high school students. The program attendees participated in an end-of-the-week survey to assess the impact of the program in terms of their self-perceived abilities, knowledge, and attitudes towards engineering. A statistical analysis of responses on a 7 point Likert scale showed an increase in four different areas measured and quantitatively demonstrated meeting our goals. However, the survey results also revealed a great propensity of participants already interested and planning to study engineering. These results will help us to refine our goals, future marketing approaches, and development of the summer program.

Introduction The Grand Challenges identified by the National Academy of Engineers (NAE)1 and the global nature of engineering in the 21st century require a diverse set of engineers with innovative ideas and a mindset towards the helping society. Thus, the “Rise Above the Gathering Storm” report calls for enlarging the pipeline of students and increasing the number of bachelor’s degrees in sciences and engineering. 2 In efforts to diversify our university’s pipeline to the College of Engineering, we offered a summer engineering program for high school students.

Engineering Days at Cal Poly University was started in 2007 as a pilot program directed by the Women’s Engineering Program. Twenty students attended the camp, which was designed to introduce high school students (especially underrepresented groups) to engineering. For 2008,

Chen, K., & Belter, D., & Fredeen, T., & Smith, H., & Magnusson, S. (2009, June), Inspiring A Diverse Population Of High School Students To Choose Engineering As A Career Path Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5004

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: © 2009 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