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Social Consciousness in Engineering Students: An Analysis of Freshmen Design Project Abstracts

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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

Student Teams, Groups, and Collaborations

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Maya Rucks Louisiana Tech University

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Maya Rucks is an engineering education doctoral student at Louisiana Tech University. She received her bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Her areas of interest include, minorities in engineering, K-12 engineering, and engineering curriculum development.

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Marisa K. Orr Louisiana Tech University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Orr is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Associate Director of the Integrated STEM Education Research Center (ISERC) at Louisiana Tech University. She completed her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, as well as a Certificate of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University. Her research interests include student persistence and pathways in engineering, gender equity, diversity, and academic policy.

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David E. Hall Louisiana Tech University

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David Hall is the James F. Naylor, Jr. Endowed Professor and the Director for Civil and Mechanical Engineering and Construction Engineering Technology at Louisiana Tech University. He received his B.S. from Louisiana Tech and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Georgia Tech. His research interests include trenchless technology and engineering education. He is the primary author of the Living with the Lab first-year engineering experience at Louisiana Tech (

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This research paper explores the motivations behind freshmen engineering projects, particularly as they vary by gender composition of the team. All freshmen in the engineering program at Louisiana Tech University must take and pass Engineering Problem Solving III, an engineering design class, before moving on to sophomore engineering classes. Students are instructed to team up in groups of two to five to design and construct a “smart product” using the knowledge gained from their previous Engineering Problem Solving I and II classes. At the end of the quarter, each team must submit a project abstract before presenting their work at the Freshmen Design Expo. This qualitative study looks at these abstracts in an attempt to find a pattern between the gender composition of the group and the motivation behind the product. Eighty-one project abstracts are analyzed, representing 227 students. Several distinct themes emerged from the analysis of the project abstracts. The most common themes were Annoying and Frustrating, Efficiency and Time Saving, Safety, Elderly and Disabled, Health and Sanitation, Forgetfulness, and Children. Analysis of how these themes map to gender composition of design teams is ongoing. These themes will help to understand how students view the impact that they can have as future engineers. Redesigning curricula and analyzing recruitment techniques to encompass particular themes may help to attract and retain more students in engineering. In this study, groups that had an equal number of males and females were more likely to design a socially conscious project than groups that were mostly male or mostly female.

Rucks, M., & Orr, M. K., & Hall, D. E. (2016, June), Social Consciousness in Engineering Students: An Analysis of Freshmen Design Project Abstracts Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25820

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