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Nephrotex: Measuring First-year Students' Ways of Professional Thinking in a Virtual Internship

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Epistemic Research

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.971.1 - 25.971.15



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Paper Authors


Golnaz Arastoopour University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Before becoming interested in education, Golnaz Arastoopour studied mechanical engineering and Spanish at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. While earning her bachelor’s degree, she worked as a computer science instructor at Campus Middle School for Girls. Along with a team of undergraduates, she headlined a project to develop a unique computer science curriculum for middle school students. She then earned her secondary mathematics teaching certification in New York City at Columbia University. Arastoopour then accepted a position teaching mathematics in the Chicago Public School system at Orr Academy High School, an AUSL school. Arastoopour is currently working on the Nephrotex project and is interested in how new technologies are effective and increase student engagement in STEM fields.

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Naomi C. Chesler University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Naomi C. Chesler is an Associate Professor of biomedical engineering with an affiliate appointment in educational psychology. Her research interests include vascular biomechanics, hemodynamics, and cardiac function, as well as the factors that motivate students to pursue and persist in engineering careers, with a focus on women and under-represented minorities.

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Cynthia M. D'Angelo University of Wisconsin, Madison


David Williamson Shaffer University of Wisconsin, Madison

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David Williamson Shaffer is a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the Department of Educational Psychology, and a Game Scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. His most recent book is How Computer Games Help Children Learn.

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Jamon W. Opgenorth

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Carrie Beth Reardan Epistemic Games

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Nathan Patrick Haggerty University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Clayton Guy Lepak

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Nephrotex: A virtual internship program for first-year undergraduate studentsThe United States is not producing enough engineers to effectively compete in the globalmarketplace. One way to increase the number of engineers is to increase the participation fromhistorically underrepresented groups, such as women. Although more women than men attendcollege, few women enroll in undergraduate engineering programs and even fewer graduate witha bachelor’s degree in engineering. Motivating and retaining women in science and engineeringis a problem with different levels of intervention, e.g. middle school programs, high schoolSTEM classes, support groups for undergraduate women in engineering. This study examines avirtual internship program modeled on authentic engineering practices that aims to encouragefirst-year undergraduate women with an interest in engineering to commit to an engineeringprogram. The virtual internship, Nephrotex, was implemented in a first-year course forprospective engineering majors. The course was organized as a set of half-semester modules inwhich each student participated in two out of five available modules. As part of the course, 45students (13 female, 32 male) participated in Nephrotex and another existing course module. Acontrol group of 75 students (24 female, 51 male) participated in two other course modules.These other course modules mainly focused on teamwork and research. Data were collected intwo forms: (1) Nephrotex and control students’ responses to a pre and post survey of engineeringperceptions and attitudes at the beginning and end of the course and (2) Nephrotex students’discourse through a chat program recorded by the online simulation. We conducted a principalcomponents analysis on the survey data and conducted an epistemic network analysis on thediscourse data. Analyses of these data yielded three interesting findings: (1) women in Nephrotexviewed engineering careers more positively and showed gains in persistence compared to womenin the control group, (2) men and women in Nephrotex who focused more on data analysisshowed an increase in motivation to persist in engineering, and (3) men and women in Nephrotexwho focused more on engineering design showed an increase in positive views of engineering. Inother words, women who participated in Nephrotex think more positively about a career inengineering, and both men and women in Nephrotex who talk more about data analysis andengineering design thought more positively about engineering and were more motivated topersist in engineering. These results show that a first-year program that includes engineeringdesign, data analysis, as well as teamwork and research might be an ideal program forencouraging women to continue in the field of engineering.

Arastoopour, G., & Chesler, N. C., & D'Angelo, C. M., & Shaffer, D. W., & Opgenorth, J. W., & Reardan, C. B., & Haggerty, N. P., & Lepak, C. G. (2012, June), Nephrotex: Measuring First-year Students' Ways of Professional Thinking in a Virtual Internship Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21728

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