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Retaining Female Students in a Robotics Program

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Gloria Ma Wentworth Institute of Technology

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Gloria Ma is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Technology. She has been teaching robotics with Lego Mindstorm to ME freshmen for several years. She is actively involved in community services of offering robotics workshops to middle- and high-school girls. Her research interests are dynamics and system modeling, geometry modeling, project based engineering design, and robotics in manufacturing.

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Lili Ma New York City Colledge of Technology

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Professor Ma received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Utah State University focusing on autonomous ground vehicles. After that she did three-year post-doctoral training at Virginia Tech working with autonomous aerial vehicles. Prior to joining the Computer Engineering Technology (CET) department at City Tech in fall 2016, she taught at Wentworth Institute of Technology for many years. Professor Ma’s research areas include autonomous mobile robots, vision-based control, visual servoing, visual tracking, coordinated control, and sensing & perception techniques.

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As we all know, United States are short of engineers, especially women engineers in the work place. Many female students lost interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in their early age. How to encourage and retain female students’ interest in STEM is a problem facing many educators.

The paper describes our collaboration with an all girl high school to setup a robotics program and retain students in the program. The school administration is interested in bringing engineering and technology to their curriculum; while we are constantly looking for outreach opportunities to prompt STEM, and encourage more girls into the STEM field. After discussion with school administration, a robotics program was developed. The program was a year-long program which was run as an extra curriculum activity for the girls. The program started in Fall 2014, there were 7 and 10 girls signed up in Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 respectively. At the end of the first year, there were only 2 students remained in the program. Retention was a big problem for us. Starting the second year, many changes were made to retain students in the robotics program, i.e. training a science teacher from the high school, making the program available onsite at the high school, assigning more small tasks to help students understand the concepts and practicing more. The results showed that these modifications worked, each week there were 6~7 girls participated in the robotics activities.

This paper summarizes our work for the last two years to help a high school setup a robotics program, including curriculum development, modification, and the efforts to retain students in the program.

Ma, G., & Ma, L. (2017, June), Retaining Female Students in a Robotics Program Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28802

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