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Integrating Social Context in Engineering Experiences to Promote Interests of Diverse Learners

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2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Pre K-12 Track - Technical Session V

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Pre K-12 Education

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Paper Authors


Kayla R. Maxey Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Kayla is a doctoral student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research interest includes the influence of informal engineering learning experiences on diverse students’ attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of engineering, and the relationship between students’ interests and the practices and cultures of engineering. Her current work at the FACE lab is on teaching strategies for K-12 STEM educators integrating engineering design and the development of engineering skills of K-12 learners.

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Jessica Rush Leeker Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Jessica Rush Leeker earned her undergraduate degree from Penn State with a focus in Supply Chain and Information Systems and a minor in international business. She attended Purdue University, receiving an MBA with specialization in Sustainability and Operations.

Before business school, Jessica spent a summer in Haiti, delivering shoes to those in need and creating a more efficient supply chain for urban water projects. Jessica has worked for many successful consumer product companies including Unilever, and Georgia Pacific.

Currently, Jessica is completing her Ph.D. in Engineering Education at Purdue University to focus on practical methods of corporate outreach in STEM for minority communities. In her free time, writes children’s books, teaches yoga to children, and enjoys her family.

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Monica E. Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Monica E. Cardella is the Director of the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering and is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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Morgan M. Hynes Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Morgan Hynes is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and Director of the FACE Lab research group at Purdue. In his research, Hynes explores the use of engineering to integrate academic subjects in K-12 classrooms. Specific research interests include design metacognition among learners of all ages; the knowledge base for teaching K-12 STEM through engineering; the relationships among the attitudes, beliefs, motivation, cognitive skills, and engineering skills of K-16 engineering learners; and teaching engineering.

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To increase the participation of student populations historically underrepresented in engineering, schools, museums, after-school programs, and other organizations are implementing innovative engineering activities to tackle issues of access, representation, and exposure. These engineering activities vary from single-day to multi-week units implemented in both formal and informal settings. Many of these activities ask students to design and build something. However, in many cases, there is little to no meaningful, relevant context for students to authentically engage in problem scoping. In these cases, students are not asked to situate their solution in a context or learn more about that context to succeed. As a result, educators focus on the building and constructing aspects of engineering. Unfortunately, this may result in reinforcement of negative stereotypes of engineering, a narrow view of the engineering discipline, and increased disengagement due to lack of alignment with student interests.

In this paper, we summarize research findings that help us understand student interests as well as the different problem solving and design skills students might develop through pre-college engineering experiences. We then describe examples of activities that we have used that connect with students’ interests and help students develop design skills. Finally, we provide an example of an existing activity that we have modified to add an engaging and relevant context. We expect this paper to contribute practical teaching strategies that educators can use in formal and informal learning environments to introduce engineering with an emphasis on the social connections of the discipline with society.

Maxey, K. R., & Leeker, J. R., & Cardella, M. E., & Hynes, M. M. (2018, April), Integrating Social Context in Engineering Experiences to Promote Interests of Diverse Learners Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--29549

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