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Revising Roles: Enhancing an Engineering Capstone Course to Improve Outcomes for Women

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Mary Kay Camarillo P.E. University of the Pacific Orcid 16x16

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Mary Kay Camarillo is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. She specializes in water treatment and in domestic and industrial waste treatment. Dr. Camarillo’s research includes development of biomass energy projects for agricultural wastes and treatability assessments for oilfield produced water. She focuses on environmental problems in California. Dr. Camarillo earned her Ph.D. at UC Davis and spent many years in industry working on water and wastewater treatment infrastructure projects.

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Eileen Kogl Camfield University of California at Merced

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Since 1997, Eileen has been a college instructor, curriculum designer, and faculty pedagogy coordinator. She spent five years as Director of a University Writing Program, which included leading faculty learning communities for Writing in the Disciplines. She subsequently served as the Executive Director of Student Academic Success Services. Eileen’s deep commitment to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion connects with her research interests pertaining to student success, writing self-efficacy development, resilience theory, and authentic assessment. At UC Merced, she has a dual appointment, as a teaching professor (senior SOE) in the Global Arts, Media, and Writing Studies Department and in the Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning. She supports faculty and graduate student pedagogy with specific expertise in developing discipline-based writing instruction (WiD) and in using writing to activate and support student learning (WAC-W2L).

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Women leave the engineering profession at a high rate, and this attrition is observed both in the university setting and in the workforce. Female students cite negative experiences with peers as a major contributor to their dissatisfaction with engineering. Many of these negative experiences occur in team projects that are ubiquitous in engineering programs. In the absence of intentional instruction on teamwork and effective collaboration methods, students—especially women—struggle and have negative experiences that stymie the self-efficacy and confidence-building that should occur during the senior year. The objective of this paper is to highlight key issues with engineering capstone projects and to identify best practices that result in better outcomes for women. This work evolved from the first author’s experience in teaching the civil engineering capstone course and from participating in a “Writing in the Disciplines” group, led by the second author. The group provided a forum for brainstorming ideas and the course provided a platform for testing these strategies. Four recommendations evolved from this effort: 1.) Education on team function and bias in team dynamics is helpful. 2.) Teamwork skills and strategies for collaboration and conflict resolution need to be taught. 3.) Mentoring and engaging with students is an important aspect of the process and can be enhanced to better serve women. 4.) Reflection and self-assessment exercises can be integrated to build self-efficacy and confidence in students. Assessment was done using data collected from mid-term evaluations, peer evaluations, self-assessment exercises, input from industry judges, and teaching evaluations. The major outcome of this study was that instructors can make reasonable modifications to team projects to better serve women. Likewise, students can develop skills that improve their ability to function on teams, leading to better capstone experiences and improved self-efficacy as they enter the engineering workforce.

Camarillo, M. K., & Camfield, E. K. (2020, June), Revising Roles: Enhancing an Engineering Capstone Course to Improve Outcomes for Women Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35162

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