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Leadership, Management, and Diversity: Missed Opportunities Within Student Design Competition Teams

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1059.1 - 26.1059.23



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Paper Authors


Susan E. Walden University of Oklahoma Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Susan E. Walden is the founding Director of the Research Institute for STEM Education (RISE) and an associate research professor in the Dean's office of the College of Engineering (CoE). She is also a founding member of the Sooner Engineering Education (SEED) Center.

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Cindy E. Foor University of Oklahoma

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Cindy E. Foor is the Associate Director/Research Associate for the Research Institute for STEM Education
(RISE) at the University of Oklahoma. Her contribution to the multi-disciplinary team lies in
qualitative methodologies, cultural theory and the belief that outliers offer great insight into the workings
of power. Her research interests include cultural theory, the cultural/historical construction of women’s
identities and roles in past and present societies, and most recently, equity issues surrounding gender and
underrepresented populations in engineering education. She can be contacted at

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Rui Pan University of Oklahoma

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Dr. Pan is currently working as a postdoctoral research associate in the Research Institute for STEM Education at the University of Oklahoma. She received her Ph.D in Engineering Education, M.S. in Statistics and B.S. in Electrical Engineering.

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Randa L. Shehab University of Oklahoma

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Dr. Randa L. Shehab is a professor and the Director of the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. She was recently appointed as Director of the Sooner Engineering Education Center dedicated to engineering education related initiatives and research focused on building diversity and enhancing the educational experience for all engineering students. Dr. Shehab teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in ergonomics, work methods, experimental design, and statistical analysis. Her current research is with the Research Institute for STEM Education, a multi-disciplinary research group investigating factors related to equity and diversity in engineering student populations.

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Deborah A. Trytten University of Oklahoma

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Dr. Deborah A. Trytten is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Womens' and Gender Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Her main research focus is diversity in engineering education and introductory software engineering education.

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Leadership, Management, and Diversity: Missed Opportunities within StudentDesign Competition TeamsEngineering competition teams provide some students the opportunity to design authenticengineering artifacts, manage budgets and logistics, exercise engineering analysis and decisionmaking, build an engineering artifact and develop and practice professional skills. In a researchstudy examining the cultures, structure, composition, and processes of a variety of StudentExperiential Learning Engineering Competition Teams (SELECT), we collected data from teamsfrom multiple institutions and a variety of design competitions. The data from the teams consistsof interviews of team members and advisors, team documents, and other public artifacts.This paper is a comparative case study of two SELECT teams from the same institution. Bothteams were sponsored by the institution’s mechanical engineering department, garneredsubstantial resources, and competed in national competitions sponsored by professionalorganizations. Both teams produced vehicles and the competition results were determined byboth technical considerations and race performance. Both teams' membership is almostexclusively white, upper and middle class males; each team had one female participant, with onefemale also being a member of an underrepresented racial/ethnic group.Some participating students on each team reported learning a variety of engineering skills,including engineering design, manufacturing, design for manufacturability, CAD software,computational fluid dynamics and finite element analysis long before they would encounter themin their curriculum. We found differences between the teams in recruiting, team structure andorganization, student leadership, faculty advisors, expectations for commitment, integration intoacademic structure (capstone), and focus on competition success.In spite of the differences in team organization and goals, both teams missed opportunities forstudents to acquire and practice important professional skills. Neither team providedopportunities for formal learning about leadership and management, nor experience andmentorship for working with a diverse group of peers (e.g. diversity from race, gender, socio-economic status, or major discipline). The most egregious missed opportunity within teams was(and is for many teams) the vast number of students who are excluded from participation bycultural and structural elements of the teams. These excluded students miss all of the educationalopportunities competition teams provide. The comparative case study analysis will presentfeatures of these teams that contributed to these missed opportunities.In the ASEE Year of Action on Diversity, it is time to acknowledge that the substantial resourcesinvested in competition teams are being focused on a small group of privileged students. Weneed to ensure that the resources devoted to competition teams and the associated benefits aredistributed across a wider range of students. This paper offers recommendations to advisors,departments, and engineering educators about the scaffolding necessary to offer more authenticlearning opportunities and build teams that are more diverse.

Walden, S. E., & Foor, C. E., & Pan, R., & Shehab, R. L., & Trytten, D. A. (2015, June), Leadership, Management, and Diversity: Missed Opportunities Within Student Design Competition Teams Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24396

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