Asee peer logo

The Effect of Gender Groupings at an Engineering Summer Camp on Increasing Engineering Knowledge and Confidence

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-college: Summer Experiences for Students and Teachers (2)

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Deborah Besser P.E. University of St. Thomas

visit author page

Dr. Besser, holds a MS and BS in civil engineering and PhD in education. Currently, she is the director of University of St. Thomas Center for Engineering Education; and she teaches engineering education and engineering courses. Previous experience includes faculty positions in diverse universities where she has taught a variety of coursework ranging from engineering education to structural systems to engineering economy. Prior to teaching, Dr. Besser, a licensed engineer, was a design engineer with HNTB-CA, where she worked on seismic retrofits and new design of high profile transportation structures.

visit author page


Alison Haugh University of St. Thomas

visit author page

Alison Haugh is a recent graduate from the University of St.Thomas with degrees in Elementary Education, STEM Education, and a focus in Engineering Education. Her undergraduate research with the Playful Learning Lab focused on expanding quality engineering education with an eye to under-served populations, including students with disabilities, emphasizing learning through play. Alison was the Lead STEPS (Science, Technology, and Engineering Preview program) curriculum constructor and continues to be an off-site researcher. Additionally, Alison has assisted on and led after-school engineering programs at nearby schools.

visit author page


AnnMarie Polsenberg Thomas University of St. Thomas

visit author page

AnnMarie Thomas is a professor in the School of Engineering and the College of Business at the University of St. Thomas. She is the co-founder of the UST Center for Engineering Education. Her research group, the Playful Learning Lab, focuses on engineering and design education for learners of all ages.

visit author page


Jenna Laleman University of St. Thomas

visit author page

Jenna is in her third year of studies at the University of St. Thomas, majoring in Elementary Education and STEM Education with a minor in Psychology. She works at her university's Playful Learning Lab which focuses on engaging students of all ages in hands-on, innovative engineering education, especially focusing on several outreach projects reaching groups otherwise underrepresented within the STEM fields. Jenna is also leading the University's STEPS (Science, Technology, and Engineering Preview Summer) Program, developing the curriculum, leading the staff, and working as the primary researcher.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This paper focuses on evaluating methods of effective practice and the learning structure of an engineering design summer program for middle school students. The paper reflects on findings and observations regarding gender groupings in STEM, and how they affect student learning and confidence. In 2009, President Obama's Administration implemented the "Educate to Innovate" program to emphasize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Women and men hold nearly equal professional positions in the biological sciences, and close to that in math, yet women comprise less than 30% of the science and engineering workforce as a whole.1 Students as young as kindergarten display the belief that fields of study such as science and math are “boy subjects.”2 The societal norm that males succeed in STEM more than their female counter parts is continually reinforced as students mature and move into middle and high school.1 By early adolescence, females start to lose interest in the STEM disciplines and even lose confidence in their abilities in these subjects.1 First Lady Michelle Obama stated “If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”3,4

Recognizing this call to action and the increased need for K-12 Engineering Education Outreach, the University of __________ ___________ Lab redesigned a preexisting, week-long summer camp for rising 7th grade students in 2015. The new camp featured a one-day engineering design intensive workshop instead of a weeklong camp. In 2016, this new camp invited 125 students from the metro area to participate in a one-day workshop, taking place at the ___________ Public Library and at the University of ___________ in ________, ___________. Many participants were from Title I schools, and more than half identified as female. Two main projects (circuitry and laser cutting) were completed by participants, focusing on both the creative and technical aspects of each.

Students and staff alike were formally and informally assessed throughout each camp session to allow for data to be collected for use in comparison to the old camp structure (week-long) by judging for effectiveness of this change in camp structure as well as the change in lessons and activities presented. 88% of participants completed a questionnaire upon arrival and again at the end of the day. Using this data from 2016 along with data from the 2015 workshop sessions, researchers have identified patterns and inconsistencies across each day the camp was offered, forming conclusions about the effectiveness of a one-day camp, and how gender breakdowns affect student learning and confidence in STEM. Furthermore, using reflections from camp staff and feedback from students, effective engineering education practices, programs, lessons, and curriculum designs were created and modified, allowing for transferable knowledge to other institutions. For the sake of this paper, the terms "camp" and "workshop" both refer to the 2015

Besser, D., & Haugh, A., & Thomas, A. P., & Laleman, J. (2017, June), The Effect of Gender Groupings at an Engineering Summer Camp on Increasing Engineering Knowledge and Confidence Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28962

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: © 2017 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