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Multi-Disciplinary Summer Orientation Sessions for First-Year Students in Engineering, Engineering Technology, Physics, and Computer Science

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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

First-Year Programs Division Technical Session 5A: Work-In-Progress: 5 Minute Postcard Session I

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Clara Novoa Texas State University - San Marcos

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Dr. Clara Novoa is an Associate Professor at the Ingram School of Engineering at Texas State University. She has a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and her research areas are Dynamic and Stochastic Programming and Parallel Computing to solve mathematical optimization problems applied to logistics and supply chain. Dr. Novoa has 15 years of experience in academia and 4 years of experience in industry. Dr. Novoa is receiving funding from NSF through SPARK and Texas State STEM Rising Stars. SPARK is a four years grant that looks to increase the recruitment and retention of female in engineering, computer science, and related fields by providing scholarships for low-income and talented students. Texas State STEM Rising Stars is a four years grant committed to increase the first and second year retention and graduation rates of students in STEM. Dr. Novoa is also the advisor of the Society of Women Engineers. She is committed to research on strategies to achieve gender equity and cultural inclusiveness in science and engineering.

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Araceli Martinez Ortiz Texas State University - San Marcos

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Araceli Martinez Ortiz, Ph.D., is Assistant Research Professor of Engineering Education in the College of Education at Texas State University. Araceli is also director of the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research where she collaborates on various state and national STEM education programs and is PI on major grant initiatives such as the NASA Educator Professional Development Collaborative and NSF Texas State STEM Rising Stars. Araceli holds Engineering degrees from The University of Michigan and Kettering University. She holds a Masters degree in Education from Michigan State and a PhD in Engineering Education from Tufts University. Her research interests include studying the role of engineering as a curricular context for mathematics and science learning in K-20 and developing research-based active-learning instructional models and assessment instruments to enhance engineering students’ learning experiences and STEM teacher professional development. She works with teachers, families, and students from underrepresented communities.

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Kimberly Grau Talley P.E. Texas State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Kimberly G. Talley is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Technology, Senior Research Fellow and Maker Space Co-Director for the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research at Texas State University, and a licensed Professional Engineer. She received her Ph.D. and M.S.E. from the University of Texas at Austin in Structural Engineering. Her undergraduate degrees in History and in Construction Engineering and Management are from North Carolina State University. Dr. Talley teaches courses in the Construction Science and Management Program, and her research focus is in student engagement and retention in engineering and engineering technology education. Contact:

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This work in progress is motivated by a self-study conducted at Texas State University. The study revealed that the average second year science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) student retention rate is 56% vs. 67% for all majors, and that 16% of STEM majors are female while 57% of all undergraduate students are female. Using these statistics, the authors identified the need to offer motivating experiences to freshman in STEM while creating a sense of community among other STEM students. This paper reports on the impact of two interventions designed by the authors and aligned with this need. The interventions are: (1) a one-day multi-disciplinary summer orientation (summer15) to give participants the opportunity to undertake projects that demonstrate the relevance of spatial and computational thinking skills and (2) a subsequent six-week spatial visualization skills training (fall 2015) for students in need to refine these skills. The interventions have spatial skills as a common topic and introduce participants to career applications through laboratory tours and talks. Swail et al.1 mentions that the three elements to address in order to best support students’ persistence and achievement are cognitive, social, and institutional factors. The interventions address all elements to some extent and are part of an NSF IUSE grant (2015-2018) to improve STEM retention.

The summer 2015 orientation was attended by 17 freshmen level students in Physics, Engineering, Engineering Technology, and Computer Science. The orientation was in addition to “Bobcat Preview”, a separate mandatory one-week length freshman orientation that includes academic advising and educational and spirit sessions to acclimate students to the campus. The effectiveness of the orientation was assessed through exit surveys administered to participants. Current results are encouraging; 100% of the participants answered that the orientation created a space to learn about science and engineering, facilitated them to make friends and encouraged peer interaction. Eighty percent indicated that the orientation helped them to build confidence in their majors. Exit survey findings were positively linked to a former exit survey from an orientation given to a group of 18 talented and low-income students in 2013.

The training on refining spatial visualization skills connects to the summer orientation by its goals. It offers freshman students in need to refine spatial skills a further way to increase motivation to STEM and create community among other students. It is also an effective approach to support students’ persistence and achievement. Bairaktarova et al.2 mention that spatial skills ability is gradually becoming a standard assessment of an individual’s likelihood to succeed as an engineer. Metz et al.3 report that well-developed spatial skills have been shown to lead to success in Engineering and Technology, Computer Science, Chemistry, Computer Aided Design and Mathematics. The effectiveness of the fall 2015 training was assessed through comparison between pre and post tests results and exit surveys administered to participants. All participants improved their pre-training scores and average improvement in students’ scores was 18.334%. References 1. Swail, W.S., Redd, K.E., & Perna, L.W. (2003). Retaining minority students in higher education: A framework for success. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, Adrianna J. Kezar, Series Editor, 30, 2. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 2. Bairaktarova, D., Reyes, M., Nassr, N., & Carlton D.T. (2015). “Spatial Skills Development of Engineering Students: Identifying Instructional Tools to Incorporate into Existing Curricula,” Proceedings of the 2015 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, WA, June 14-17, 2015. USA: American Society of Engineering Education. 3. Metz, S., Sorby, S., Reap, J., Berry, T., & Bottomley, L. (2013). “Implementing ENGAGE Strategies to Improve Retention: Focus on Spatial Skills”. Spatial Skills Panel, American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia, June 24, 2013. USA: Engage - Engaging Students in Engineering. Retrieved from 4. Callahan, J., Garzolini, J.A., Hunt, G.L., Guarino, J., Bullock, D., Shadle, S., & Schrader, C.B. (2011). “The Idaho science talent expansion program: Improving freshmen retention for STEM majors,” Proceedings of the 2011 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Vancouver, BC, Canada, June 26-29, 2011. USA: American Society of Engineering Education. 5. Thompson, M.K., & Consi, T.R. (2007). Engineering outreach through college pre-orientation programs: MIT discover engineering. Journal of STEM Education, 8 (3&4), 75-82. 6. Lam, P.C., Srivatsan, T., Doverspike, D., Vesalo, J., & Mawasha, P.R. (2005). A ten year assessment of the pre-engineering program for under-represented, low-income and/or first-generation college students at the University of Akron. Journal of STEM Education, 6, (3&4), 14-20. 7. Compass Project. “The Compass Project - Summer Program.” Retrieved from 8. Milgram, D. (2007). Gender differences in learning style specific to science, math, engineering and technology (SMET). National Institute for Women in Trades, Technology & Science, 1-5. Retrieved from 9. Bailey, L. (2004). “Building greenhouses and futures - Introductory engineering class hits on formula to attract women.” November 24, 2004. University of Michigan – The University RECORD Online. Retrieved from 10. Diefes-Dux, H., Follman, D., Imbrie, P.K., Zawojewski, J., Capobianco, B., & Hjalmarson, M. (2004). “Model eliciting activities: An in-class approach to improving interest and persistence of women in engineering,” Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Salt Lake City, UT, June 20-23, 2004. USA: American Society of Engineering Education. 11. Faulkner, W. (2006). Genders in/of engineering: a research report. Edinburgh: The University of Edinburgh. 12. Felder, R., & Brent, R. (2005). Understanding student differences. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 57-72. 13. Pascarella, E.T., Terenzini, P.T., & Hibel, J. (1978). Student-faculty interactional setting and their relationship to predicted academic performance. The Journal of Higher Education, 49(5), 450-463. 14. Turfs University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. (2009). Intro to Robotics in Engineering - Lesson 2. Retrieved from 15. Colvin, G. (July 23, 2015). Humans are underrated. Fortune, 100-112. 16. National Science Board 2010 report. Retrieved from 17. Sorby, S.A. (2001). A course in spatial visualization and its impact on the retention of women engineering students. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 7(2), 153-172. 18. Veurink, N.L., Hamlin, A.J. (2015). “Comparison of on-line versus paper spatial testing results,” Proceedings of the 2015 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Seattle, WA, June 14-17, 2015. USA: American Society of Engineering Education. 19. Humphreys, L.G., Lubinski, D. & Yao, G. (1993). Utility of predicting group membership and the role of spatial visualization in becoming an engineer, physical scientist, or artist. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 250-261 20. Miller, C.L. & Bertoline, G.R. (1999). Spatial visualization research and theories: Their importance in the development of an engineering and technical design graphics curriculum model. Engineering Design Graphics Journal, 55 (3), 5-14 21. Sorby, S.A. (2009). Educational research in developing 3D spatial skills for engineering students. International Journal of Science Education, 31(3), 459-480. 22. Engage - Engaging Students in Engineering. “Spatial Visualization Skills (SVS): Learn More.” Retrieved from

Novoa, C., & Ortiz, A. M., & Talley, K. G. (2016, June), Multi-Disciplinary Summer Orientation Sessions for First-Year Students in Engineering, Engineering Technology, Physics, and Computer Science Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25760

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