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Maybe I am Interested in Engineering, Does that Matter?

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Impacts on K-12 Student Identity, Career Choice, and Perceptions of Engineers

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.890.1 - 24.890.19



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Paper Authors


Cheryl Carrico P.E. Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cheryl Carrico conducts engineering education research for Virginia Tech and is an independent consultant. Her current research relates to STEM career pathways including for low SES and rural populations. Her research strengths include research design and implementation using qualitative and mixed methods. Prior to her current role, Dr. Carrico spent over 25 years in the aerospace industry holding positions of R&D and design engineering, program and proposal management, and engineering management. Cheryl is involved in STEM outreach primarily at the K-12 level in the Central Appalachian region.

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Holly M. Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Dr. Holly Matusovich (co-PI) is an Assistant Professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education. She has her doctorate in Engineering Education and her strengths include qualitative and mixed methods research study design and implementation. Her expertise includes motivation and related frameworks, using these frameworks broadly to study student engagement in learning, student recruitment into and retention within engineering programs and careers, faculty teaching practices and intersections of motivation and learning strategies

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Marie C. Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Marie C. Paretti is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, design education, and gender in engineering. She was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to study expert teaching in capstone design courses, and is co-PI on numerous NSF grants exploring communication, design, and identity in engineering. Drawing on theories of situated learning and identity development, her work includes studies on the teaching and learning of communication, effective teaching practices in design education, the effects of differing design pedagogies on retention and motivation, the dynamics of cross-disciplinary collaboration in both academic and industry design environments, and gender and identity in engineering.

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Matthew Arnold Boynton PE P.E. Virginia Tech

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Matthew Boynton recently finished his Ph.D in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He also holds a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from Tennessee Tech and an Ed.S in Instructional Leadership. Matthew has experience in industry as well as teaching. Previously, Matthew taught Project Lead the Way Engineering courses in two rural high schools in Appalachia. While at Virginia Tech, his research focused on understanding engineering career choice in the Appalachian region of the United States. Matthew is currently employed as an engineer at Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative, a rural telecommunications service provider in Pikeville Tennessee.

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Maybe I am interested in Engineering, does that matter?Interest is often cited as one of, if not the key, reason for why students chose a career or collegemajor, including engineering. However, research has also shown that interest is not necessarilythe primary reason for career choice within underrepresented groups. The purpose of this paperis to present qualitative results on how interest relates to engineering as a career choice for agroup historically underrepresented in engineering. Using the Social Cognitive Career Theory asa frame work, high school and college engineering students from Appalachia were interviewedconcerning career choices to answer the research question of: How do high school and collegestudents from Appalachia compare and contrast with respect to reasons for choosing anengineering career?To answer the research questions, a total of 36 junior and senior high school students frommultiple counties in Appalachia Virginia and 12 college engineering students from the samecounties were interviewed. The interview protocol was developed using SCCT as the frameworkand included questions concerning interest, goals, supports/barriers, parental jobs and education,and expectations of their future. The interview protocol was expert reviewed and piloted prior todeployment. Results show that critical incidences were the primary reason for career choiceswith interests secondary for all high school participants in the study. However, interest was theprimary reason for planning on an engineering career by the high school participants. Likewise,interest was the primary reason for choosing engineering given by the college engineeringparticipants. Other comparisons were made relative to desire to remain local, parental education,and being a continuing generation Appalachian (i.e. parents as well as student from the region).Conclusions include the importance of exposure to engineering as a career choice and/orengineers to enable students the opportunity to develop an interest. Additional mplications of theresults and recommendation for future work are also presented.

Carrico, C., & Matusovich, H. M., & Paretti, M. C., & Boynton, M. A. (2014, June), Maybe I am Interested in Engineering, Does that Matter? Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22823

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