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Mentoring To Increase Interest In The Study Of Engineering In Underrepresented High School Students Via A Design Mechanism

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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

14.876.1 - 14.876.27



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Paper Authors

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Laura Campo Rice University

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Stephanie Rice Rice University

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Daniela Rimer Rice University

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Brent Houchens Rice University

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

Mentoring to Impassion the Study of Engineering in Underrepresented High School Students via a Design Mechanism


The DREAM Program (Designing with Rice Engineers – Achievement through Mentorship) was developed to encourage underrepresented minority high school students to pursue college studies in STEM fields, particularly engineering. The DREAM Program has taken shape over the last three years at Austin High School (AHS). Through this program Rice University undergraduate engineering student mentor AHS students throughout the academic year. The mechanism for establishing the mentor/mentee relationship is an open-ended design competition. Two to three AHS students (mentees) form a team with a Rice University group leader (mentor). One day a week, after school, the team meets to solve a design challenge. After 5-7 weeks of design, testing and iteration, AHS students are then compete with their designs on the Rice University campus. AHS is a public school (Houston Independent School District – HISD) of approximately 1850 students, of which approximately 95% are Hispanic and 3% are African American, with 86% of the student body receiving reduced price or free lunch.

Assessment of DREAM is carried out through several mechanisms, including Perception and Environment Surveys (P.E.S.), Intuition Inventories (I.I.) and Physics Concepts Inventories (P.C.I.). P.E.S. provide information related to the college application and admission processes, and introduce concepts such as long-term earning potential. Data is collected from both DREAM mentees and a control group (over 300 AHS students in 2007-2008). The invited mentees are further divided into i) those who consistently participated (over 70% attendance), ii) those who did not participate, and iii) those with inconsistent participation. Attendance at DREAM Day at Rice University is also factored into the analysis. Most notable, surveys completed by DREAM mentees indicate the increased value they place on math classes. Measured initially in the fall of 2007 before DREAM began, only 24% recognized the importance of math classes for going on to study high earning potential fields such as engineering. Most recently in November 2008, nearly 78% saw math as important to their future careers. Results from inventories are similarly positive. In response to the fundamental question about gravitational acceleration on the spring 2008 Intuition Inventory, initially only 44% of mentees answered correctly. After completing the program and DREAM Day at Rice University, 83% of mentees answered this question correctly. In fall 2008, correct answers to the fundamental buoyancy question on the Intuition Inventory increased from 38% to 100%, before and after the program.

Other goals of DREAM include: encouraging students to take as many math and science courses as possible in high school, informing students of the career paths and earning potential associated with obtaining an engineering degree, providing assistance with college applications, and offering a consistent and supportive presence. In addition to providing a structured mentorship for AHS students, there are also significant benefits to Rice University mentors. Mentors enhance their leadership skills and hands-on engineering problem solving, improve their communication skills, and often are introduced to new cultural and socioeconomic experiences. Several mentors have cited outreach through DREAM as broader impacts in successful fellowship proposals.

Campo, L., & Rice, S., & Rimer, D., & Houchens, B. (2009, June), Mentoring To Increase Interest In The Study Of Engineering In Underrepresented High School Students Via A Design Mechanism Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4907

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