June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.1369.1 - 14.1369.19
When the Light Goes On: Illuminating the Pathway to Engineering
After teaching first-year students for many years, a number of instructors expressed interest in becoming involved in programs that seek to define and work toward addressing the problem of flat engineering graduation rates in the United States. Can we help illuminate the pathway to engineering for the right students? Given the many excellent recruitment initiatives and opportunities to work with K-12 programs, it was not clear though, which type of program to pursue to this end. We wanted to find the right target point, considering when, what, and how to get involved in attracting young engineers – therefore our research begins it’s focus with a question: when does the light go on? In order to have some data from the youngest engineers we know, we administered a survey as the first-year engineering students started classes in order to capture their information before they developed any bias from their current experiences at the university. The research and analysis revealed a distinct profile of factors that attract young people to the engineering field in different stages of their development. This work will provide examples of the survey used and the salient results. The hope is to get other educators involved in order to exploit the students marked interest in engineering as determined by their age group – in the end inspiring students to pursue an engineering career.
Recent engineering leaders have disclosed concern that fewer students have shown interest in engineering in the last ten years, and that the pipeline into engineering colleges is not supplying enough students to engineering schools. Consequently, universities cannot graduate enough engineers to meet the needs of companies in the United States. This plateaued graduation rate puts the United States at a severe disadvantage in an ever-expanding global economy where competing nations such as China have seen their rates increase to levels of 10 to 12 times that of the United States. However, there is a different viewpoint taken by others that say more international collaborations through the use of technology is the way to maintain the U.S. edge in the global market place.1 An argument for the second perspective is the belief that the U.S. leads in creativity and innovation and has the best universities in the world to pilot the way.2 Regardless of the viewpoint taken, it is apparent that we must transition more high school students into engineering to be competitive; having a clear picture of the current state of the market factors that may influence our youth as they make their career choice is imperative.
According to the U.S. Department of Education5 it was estimated that in the fall of 2008 nearly 49.8 million students attended public schools in the U.S. with an additional 6.2 million attending private schools. Of those attending public schools, 34.9 million were in prekindergarten through 8th grade and 14.9 million in grades 9 through 12. Graduation rates for high school have remained steady ranging from 72-74% in the reported years between 2002 and 2004. About 70% of those graduating high school will attend post secondary school in the following fall. In the fall of 2008 this translated to 18.3 million students attending 2 and 4 year colleges and universities,
Freeman, S., & Jaeger, B., & Whalen, R. (2009, June), When The Light Goes On: Illuminating The Pathway To Engineering Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5231
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