Asee peer logo

Measuring the Effects of Pre-College Engineering, Year 3

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session II

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Noah Salzman Boise State University

visit author page

Noah Salzman is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University, where he is a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and IDoTeach, a pre-service STEM teacher preparation program. His work focuses on the transition from pre-college to university engineering programs, how exposure to engineering prior to matriculation affects the experiences of engineering students, and engineering in the K-12 classroom. He has worked as a high school science, mathematics, and engineering and technology teacher, as well as several years of electrical and mechanical engineering design experience as a practicing engineer. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Swarthmore College, his Master's of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master's of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Doctorate in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

visit author page


Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Matthew W. Ohland is Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has degrees from Swarthmore College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Florida. His research on the longitudinal study of engineering students, team assignment, peer evaluation, and active and collaborative teaching methods has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received Best Paper awards from the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and 2011 and from the IEEE Transactions on Education in 2011. Dr. Ohland is Chair of the IEEE Curriculum and Pedagogy Committee and an ABET Program Evaluator for ASEE. He was the 2002–2006 President of Tau Beta Pi and is a Fellow of the ASEE and IEEE.

visit author page


Monica E Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

visit author page

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

visit author page

Download Paper |


With the increased national focus on STEM education, many states now including engineering as part of their education standards for both students and teachers, and the popularity of co-curricular and extracurricular engineering activities, young people have unprecedented ability to explore engineering. The activities both promote outcomes that benefit all students regardless of career aspirations such as increased math and science achievement and greater technological literacy and can also serve as an effective approach to recruiting, preparing, and retaining undergraduate engineering students.

The growth of pre-college engineering programs means that incoming university engineering students will increasingly have had some exposure to engineering prior to matriculation into undergraduate engineering programs. However, the effects of pre-college engineering experiences on undergraduate engineering students are relatively unexplored. To address this lack of understanding, this study uses a mixed-methods exploratory approach to examine how exposure to pre-college engineering programs affects the experiences of university engineering students. Conducting and analyzing phenomenographic interviews with cohorts of first year engineering students yielded five qualitatively different ways undergraduate engineering students experience the transition from pre-college to university engineering. These experiences range from feeling trapped in engineering due to pre-college engineering, to feelings of boredom and frustration due to misalignments between the two sets of experiences, to experiencing a boost in confidence and the ability to help others as a result of participation in pre-college engineering programs.

Utilizing the results of these interviews, we developed a quantitative instrument to explore the relationship between pre-college engineering participation and students’ transitions into first-year engineering programs at a larger scale. We will also report on our continuing exploration of the relationship between pre-college engineering participation and quantitative measures of success in undergraduate engineering, including grades and persistence.

While some undergraduate engineering programs may take into account pre-college engineering experiences when placing students in first-year engineering sections or forming design teams, most undergraduate programs assume little to no formal exposure to engineering prior to matriculation. The results of this research will help engineering administrators, instructors and designers of undergraduate and pre-college curricula adapt to students’ changing needs and abilities as a result of their increased experience with engineering prior to university.

Salzman, N., & Ohland, M. W., & Cardella, M. E. (2016, June), Measuring the Effects of Pre-College Engineering, Year 3 Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25703

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: © 2016 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