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Motivating Women Engineering Students Through Community Based Projects

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.862.1 - 8.862.6

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Ruth Davis

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

Session 2793

Motivating Women Engineering Students through Community-Based Projects

Ruth E. Davis Santa Clara University

Abstract This paper describes a collaborative project involving students, faculty, community members, and The Institute for Women and Technology. The Virtual Development Center (VDC) site at Santa Clara University is one of nine such sites at universities around the country, each committed to including the community in the definition of projects that truly benefit a segment of the population usually ignored in the design and development of new technology.

We begin with workshops that bring together women with a variety of life experiences (teenagers to octogenarians, technophile to technophobe), providing a forum for women in local communities to make their views on technological developments known to major research and development organizations; to generate new and unique ideas for technological changes and developments that would be of benefit to women and families; and to discuss their needs and increase their skills in expressing their views on technology.

In our third year we initiated a relationship with HomeSafe, a transitional housing community for survivors of domestic violence. We found that in addition to showing the students the benefits of serving the community, and of having to design for a specific real world user population, we were able to attract many of our women students to the project. The women students found the experience validated their feeling that engineering should have a positive impact in "the real world." This paper will describe the experience of the students and the projects they produced for the women at HomeSafe.

Institute for Women and Technology The Institute was formed with a three-fold mission: • To increase the impact of women on technology, in education, design, development, deployment and policy; • To increase the positive impact of technology on the lives of all women; • To help communities, industry, education and governments accelerate and benefit from these increases.

One of the programs supporting this mission is the Virtual Development Center (VDC), a collaborative network of nine colleges and universities, community members and sponsoring organizations that draws technical and non-technical women into technology by making the connection between technology creation and social impact.

Santa Clara University Virtual Development Center Site The VDC provides an opportunity for students to experience the impact that technology can have on their community. We attracted students to the project simply through word of mouth, but found that it was an opportunity they were eager to pursue. The students signed up for the project Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition ©2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Davis, R. (2003, June), Motivating Women Engineering Students Through Community Based Projects Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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