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The STEM Gender Gap: an Evaluation of the Efficacy of Women in Engineering Camps

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Malle R Schilling University of Dayton

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Malle Schilling is a senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Dayton. This paper is a result of work done to complete her honors thesis through the University Honors Program. She is interested in engineering education, diversity in engineering, outreach and policy.

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Margaret Pinnell University of Dayton

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Dr. Margaret Pinnell is the Associate Dean for Faculty and Staff Development in the school of engineering and associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Dayton. She teaches undergraduate and graduate materials related courses including Introduction to Materials, Materials Laboratory, Engineering Innovation, Biomaterials and Engineering Design and Appropriate Technology (ETHOS). She was director of the (Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service-Learning) for approximately ten years. She has incorporated service-learning projects into her classes and laboratories since she started teaching in 2000. Her research interests include community engaged learning and pedagogy, K-12 outreach, biomaterials and materials testing and analysis.

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In the present day, it is not uncommon for there to be a class full of engineering students with very few women in the room. To combat this lack of gender diversity, colleges and universities have employed outreach programs and developed summer engagement opportunities that allow women to explore engineering before they graduate high school. As these programs grow, there is a need to explore how they are affect the women who participate in them. A research study was conducted to evaluate if two different week-long, residential engineering camps had a positive influence on participants’ perception of and interest in engineering. One camp was a single-sex female camp and the other was a co-ed camp. Data was collected through observation and surveys. The surveys were used to collect quantitative data from consenting participants (n=112). The results of the survey indicated that the female-identified participants from the single-sex camp (n=54) were positively affected by their camp experience. The change from pre-camp to post-camp responses showed a significant positive increase of the average response in how participants viewed engineering (Δx ̅=0.26, p=0.01), and their self-efficacy regarding becoming an engineer (Δx ̅=0.22, p=0.04). In contrast, the results of female participants at the co-ed camp indicated that the average response regarding how they viewed engineering did not increase to the same degree (Δx ̅=0.06), and their self-efficacy towards becoming an engineer decreased (Δx ̅=-0.24). Though notable, this decrease showed no statistical significance due to the small sample size of female-identified participants at the co-ed camp (n=17). A comparison of the responses from female-identified and male-identified participants also supports existing research that demonstrates women having a weaker identification with math than men. These results suggest two things: a co-ed camp model may not be the ideal model for fostering women’s interest in engineering, and a single-sex camp model can have positive effects on the women who attend and participate.

Schilling, M. R., & Pinnell, M. (2018, June), The STEM Gender Gap: an Evaluation of the Efficacy of Women in Engineering Camps Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31126

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