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The Effects Of Gender On Elementary Aged Students' Interest In Technology: A Preliminary Report

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

K-12 Programs (Co-sponsored by K-12 Division)

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1415.1 - 12.1415.14



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Paper Authors


Carol Stwalley Purdue University

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Dr. Carol S. Stwalley earned her BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees from the School of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University and is a registered professional engineer in Indiana. She performed the described research while the Assistant Director for the Purdue Women in Engineering Program. Currently, she performs assessment for the Purdue Minority Engineering Program. Dr. Stwalley also is the President of Paradocs Enterprises, Inc. which is a consulting engineering firm specializing in renewable energy projects and property transfer issues.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract



A research program was proposed to the National Science Foundation to determine how gender affected the learning of and interest in technical topics. It was desired to find a consumer product that was of high interest to girls and one that was of high interest to boys, but neither product should be of high interest to the opposite gendered child. A survey was designed to determine what items were of interest to children in the third and sixth grades.

This survey chose 80 common items that most children would be familiar with and would use an engineer in the design or production of the item. General areas of interest included: Computers, Electronics, Food, Household, Medical, Sports, Transportation, and a Miscellaneous category. The food area was the largest with 16 items included within the study, and the Medical was the smallest with three representative items.

The randomization process to design the instrument included splitting the 80 items into two groups of 40. Each general area of interest had an even representation between the two groups. The randomization of the order of each item on the page was also done twice for each group of 40. This resulted in four base surveys that could be taken. The surveys consisted of two pages, and they were further randomized by giving some children the survey with page A first and some got it as the second sheet. This discouraged children sitting together from giving answers similar to their neighbors. This survey was taken by children (126 girls and 112 boys) in the three school systems in Tippecanoe County, Indiana.

The survey listed the 40 items and showed a little picture to be sure they were thinking about the intended item. These pictures also added visual interest to the survey. The children were asked to rank on a scale from zero to five how interested they would be in finding out how each item in the survey was manufactured. They could also state that they did not know what the item was. In addition, they were asked their opinion in who would be more interested in this product: girls, boys, or if there was no difference between genders. No difference could either mean both would be interested or neither would be interested.

The preliminary results of the survey showed that there really is not a large difference between boys and girls in what they would be interested in learning more about. The items were ranked by their average rating given in the interest scale. Six of the ten items of most interest to girls and boys were the same, though in different order. Similarly, six of the ten items of least interest were the same. Additionally, there was no product in the top ten of one gender that was ranked in the bottom ten of the other.

Stwalley, C. (2007, June), The Effects Of Gender On Elementary Aged Students' Interest In Technology: A Preliminary Report Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2618

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