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What Do YOU Like to Do?: Exploring Pre-College Students' Career Aspirations and Perceptions of Engineering (Work in progress)

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Student-Centered Activities and Maker Spaces in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


James Holly Jr. Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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James Holly, Jr. is a Ph.D. Student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. He received a B.S. from Tuskegee University and a M.S. from Michigan State University, both in Mechanical Engineering. His research interest is exploring formal and informal K-12 engineering education learning contexts. Specifically, he is interested in how the engineering design process can be used to emphasize the humanistic side of engineering and investigating how engineering habits of mind can enhance pre-college students’ learning abilities.

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Cole H. Joslyn Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Cole Joslyn is a PhD student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. His research interests include holistic approaches to humanizing engineering education (such as ethics of care, humanistic education, contemplative and reflective practices, and spirituality) and how they can shape engineering as a socially just profession in service to humanity. He holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and a M.Ed. specializing in mathematics education and has worked as an engineer, a pastor, and a high school math teacher.

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Avneet Hira Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Avneet is a doctoral student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research interests include K-12 education and first year engineering in the light of the engineering design process, and inclusion of digital fabrication labs into classrooms. Her current work at the FACE lab is on the use of classroom Makerspaces for an interest-based framework of engineering design. She is also interested in cross-cultural work in engineering education to promote access and equity. She is an aerospace engineer, and is the present Vice President (Educational Content) of the Student Platform for Engineering Education Development (SPEED).

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Morgan M. Hynes Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Morgan Hynes is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and Director of the FACE Lab research group at Purdue. In his research, Hynes explores the use of engineering to integrate academic subjects in K-12 classrooms. Specific research interests include design metacognition among learners of all ages; the knowledge base for teaching K-12 STEM through engineering; the relationships among the attitudes, beliefs, motivation, cognitive skills, and engineering skills of K-16 engineering learners; and teaching engineering.

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Chanel Beebe Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Chanel Beebe is an Engineering Education Researcher at Purdue University where her work focusing on broadening participation in engineering and engineering thinking. Her passion lies in empowering communities to solve their own problems using creative pedagogies and engagement strategies.

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Engineering education in the K-12 setting has received increasing attention as part of a broader initiative to improve the quality of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education in elementary and secondary schools. Due to the endorsements of national organizations, such as the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the Board on Science Education at the Center for Education (among others), engineering instruction has been deemed essential for the development of technological and scientific literacy in K-12 students (NAE & NRC, 2009). Nevertheless, many questions remain on how to best implement engineering concepts into the pre-college classroom instruction. While standards for K-12 engineering education have been produced, as well as, the creation of outreach programs and curricula, little research has been done to consider students’ perspective in establishing engineering instructional activities.

The Committee on K-12 Engineering Education (NAE & NRC, 2009) recommend that K-12 engineering education accentuate the engineering design process (EDP) for exposing pre-college students to engineering content. The report highlights specific aspects of the EDP that are beneficial for K-12 engineering education, to which we add the ability for students’ to integrate their individual interests into their learning experience and engineering practice. The EDP allows for multiple solutions to various problems, formed by diverse perspectives; additionally, it provides opportunity for students to acquire deep understandings of the material as they actively participate in the activities.

The data and analysis in this paper is an early stage of a progressing project aimed at developing an interests-based framework for K-12 engineering education. The overall project seeks to emphasize the humanistic aspects of engineering (e.g. “soft skills”) along with utilizing intrinsically motivating activities for exposing students from underrepresented groups to engineering. This research situates Krapp, Hidi, and Renninger (1992) work on interest and motivation in the context of engineering education. Furthermore, (Author et. al, 2014) assert considerations for the social sciences and humanities knowledge necessary for competent engineers. We apply these frameworks as we explore the interests of 28 students, some of whom have participated in engineering focused programs and activities.

The participants in this study consist of students ranging from elementary to high school, and from both majority and underrepresented minority groups. The students took part in semi-structured interviews that were recorded and then transcribed for analysis. These interviews surveyed students on their personal interests, favorite/least favorite school subjects, career aspirations, and understanding of the profession and knowledge of engineering. Analysis of the interview transcriptions reveal numerous themes of appeal in furthering this project. These themes include the diverse interests among students that expressed interest in engineering careers, the disconnect between students’ stated interests and their aspired career choices, and a commonly held narrow comprehension of engineers and engineering. These themes and others recognized by the researchers will be relayed in this paper.

Holly , J., & Joslyn, C. H., & Hira, A., & Hynes, M. M., & Beebe, C. (2016, June), What Do YOU Like to Do?: Exploring Pre-College Students' Career Aspirations and Perceptions of Engineering (Work in progress) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27189

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