Asee peer logo

Offering Multiple STEM Outreach Touchpoints to Middle School Girls is Associated with Engineering and University Recruitment Outcomes

Download Paper |


2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 14, 2019

Start Date

April 14, 2019

End Date

April 22, 2019

Conference Session

Track: Pre-College - Technical Session 8

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Pre-College

Page Count


Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Suzanne Sontgerath Worcester Polytechnic Institute

visit author page

Sontgerath holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an M.Ed. from Worcester State University. She is currently the Director of Pre-collegiate Outreach Programs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Sontgerath supervises K-12 STEM outreach programs at WPI including Camp Reach and several other summer and academic year programs for students and parents.

visit author page


Chrysanthe Demetry Worcester Polytechnic Institute

visit author page

Dr. Chrysanthe Demetry is Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Morgan Teaching and Learning Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her teaching and scholarship focus on materials science education, use of educational technology, K-12 engineering outreach, and intercultural learning in experiential education abroad. As director of the Morgan Center at WPI since 2006, Demetry coordinates programs and services fostering excellence and innovation in teaching at WPI and supports course-based and program-level assessment of student learning outcomes.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Many universities are well positioned to provide out-of-school programs for students of all ages, offering hands-on engagement in authentic engineering practices as well as a range of role models and social supports for interests in STEM. Universities may offer such programming for mission-oriented or altruistic reasons such as broadening participation in STEM fields and offering opportunities to youth in the local community. Pre-collegiate outreach programs may also support self-interests such as generating revenue and attracting diverse students as potential applicants to the university. Scholars agree that the middle school years are a critical time for identity development and career planning for girls, particularly with regard to supporting interests in engineering. However, can a middle school program really contribute to those longer-term recruitment effects? In our experience the answer is yes, particularly if participants are encouraged to return to the university for additional programming.

In this presentation, we will share findings from a longitudinal study of more than 700 girls who applied to a two-week engineering summer camp at a STEM-intensive university as sixth graders. Spots in the program were limited, and a lottery process was used to select participants. Those who were not randomly selected form a natural control group that accounts for self-selection bias. The camp program was designed with research-based principles including embedding engineering practice in valued social contexts, use of collaborative learning, interaction with a wide range of role models in STEM fields, and invitations to return to campus in the years following the summer program.

For each participant in the study we compiled the following outcome variables: whether or not she chose an engineering degree pathway, and whether or not she applied and/or matriculated at the host university. Other variables consisted of group membership (intervention or control), the total number of STEM program “touchpoints” with the university, and race/ethnicity. Statistical tests of association between these variables and outcomes showed that the number of touchpoints was most strongly associated with application and matriculation to the STEM-intensive host university and with choice of an engineering degree pathway. These results support the research emphasizing the importance of identity development and social supports to foster persistence in STEM.

Sontgerath, S., & Demetry, C. (2019, April), Offering Multiple STEM Outreach Touchpoints to Middle School Girls is Associated with Engineering and University Recruitment Outcomes Paper presented at 2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity , Crystal City, Virginia.

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: © 2019 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