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Solving the Engineering Pipeline Challenge: Revised, Validated, and Cost-optimized

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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

Attracting Young Minds: Part I

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1169.1 - 25.1169.12

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Paper Authors


Robert W. Whalin P.E. Jackson State University

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Robert Whalin is Associate Dean, Professor of civil engineering, and Director, Coastal Hazards Center, Jackson State University. He is Director Emeritus of the Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Miss. He received his Ph.D. in Oceanography from Texas A&M University in 1971 and is a registered Professional Engineer. Whalin was Director of Army Research Laboratory (1998-2003, Adelphi, Md.), and Technical Director/Director of Waterways Experiment Station (1985-1998; Vicksburg, Miss.). He has authored/co-authored more than a hundred technical papers and reports during his career in private industry, government, and academia. His current research interests are nearshore wave transformations, coastal structures, tsunami inundation, hurricane surges, high performance computing, and engineering education.

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Qing Pang Jackson State University

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Solving the Engineering Pipeline Challenge – Revised, Validated and Cost Optimized This paper revisits a hypothesized solution to the well-documented United Statesengineer pipeline challenge, published at the 2011 ASEE annual conference, and revises thesolution based on another year’s data which validates the approach proposed. The solutionproposed was revised based on three years of data from summer bridge programs to costoptimize the solution to this national challenge. The previous solution drew from the population of high school graduates with Math ACTscores from 17 to 25 inclusive. The approach was modified to only use the population of highschool graduates with Math ACT scores from 20-25 inclusive; eliminating the 17/18/19 ACTscore group; because, after three years of performance data from the summer engineeringenhancement (bridge) program for first time freshmen, it was clearly demonstrated that the firstand second year retention rates in engineering majors for the 20-25 group was over twice that inthe 17/18/19 group. The analysis of retention and graduation data was stratified into four groups;those with ACT Math scores of (1) 26 and higher, (2) 20-25 inclusive, (3) 17/18/19 and (4) those16 and below. Graduation rates for these four groups (nearly 300 graduates over a seven yearperiod) were 59%, 30%, 16%, and 9%, respectively. This finding coupled with first and secondyear retention rates for the summer cohorts of 2009 and 2010 led to the conclusion that asignificant increase in engineer graduates could be most economically achieved by awardingscholarships to the population of high school graduates with ACT Math scores (or equivalent)from 20-25 inclusive. Most with ACT Math scores exceeding 25 can find engineeringscholarships from existing sources. The above findings indicate that the United States could relatively easily andeconomically solve our engineering pipeline challenge with a national program of awardingscholarships to this student population at all ABET accredited public universities and canachieve a national graduation rate for this group that equals or exceeds the current nationalaverage. Cost analyses are shown for increasing the number of engineer graduates by 10%, 20%,and 40% from the 78,347 graduates in 2010. The paper shows the supply of engineering majorsis plentiful, the target retention and graduation rates are achievable and the cost is reasonable.Additionally, since Hispanic and African American minorities have lower average ACT scoresthan Caucasians, the proportion of these minorities that become engineers from this program isexpected to be larger than that of current graduating classes. This solution can be implementedimmediately and is projected to be cost neutral to the US taxpayer because of additional federaland state taxes paid by the new engineers relative to those they would have paid (in some otherprofession) without this program.

Whalin, R. W., & Pang, Q. (2012, June), Solving the Engineering Pipeline Challenge: Revised, Validated, and Cost-optimized Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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