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Why Should You Join? Exploring the Role of Engineering Clubs on the Undergraduate Engineering Experience

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Student Division (STDT) Technical Session 2: Student Success and Resources

Tagged Division

Student Division (STDT)

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Paper Authors


Katherine Drinkwater Duke University

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Katie Drinkwater is a recent graduate of Duke University with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. She is excited to begin working towards her Ph.D. in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech in the Fall. Her interest in Engineering Education began through a project where she helped to design a makerspace inside a shipping container. Since then, she has explored design and engineering education through independent projects and extracurricular leadership in SWE, FSAE, and Duke Engineers for International Development.

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Karis Boyd-Sinkler Duke University

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Karis Boyd-Sinkler, PhD is the Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. She plays a key role in providing strategies to strengthen Pratt’s efforts to create and sustain an equitable environment for all members of the Pratt Community including students, staff, faculty, and alumni. She has over 7 years of experience leading multiple mentoring, outreach, and professional development programs focused on the recruitment and retention of engineering students at all levels, especially students from Black and Hispanic/Latino populations. Dr. Boyd-Sinkler has a B.S. in Engineering Science from the University of Virginia and a M.Eng in Industrial and Systems Engineering and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech.

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Rebecca Simmons Duke University

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Rebecca Simmons is an Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. She arrived as a freshman to Duke in 1996 and has never left; she completed both her B.S.E and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Material Sciences. She teaches a variety of design courses and is passionate about helping her students build creative confidence, think outside of the box, and design their life with personal metrics of success. She hosts a podcast called This Engineering Life, the undergraduate series.

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Extracurricular clubs are an integral part of the undergraduate experience for many engineers, whether competing with Formula SAE, building a bridge abroad with Engineers Without Borders, or pursing passions in the performing arts. Students participate in extracurriculars for belonging, professional development, fun, skill-building, and a plethora of individual motivations. This research seeks to better understand the methods of skill and self-efficacy building in the undergraduate engineering environment by examining how students view the impact of participation in extracurricular activities, particularly engineering clubs, to their college experience. At University X, a subset of clubs are classified as “engineering clubs” within the School of Engineering. Engineering clubs can be further divided into three categories: competition design teams, service or globally focused clubs, and pre-professional or affinity clubs. All types of engineering clubs at University X were considered in this study, but an emphasis was placed on clubs with a hands-on design project. Coursework is traditionally viewed as the primary means of developing engineering knowledge and skills. However, hands-on design projects completed in clubs can impart valuable design skills, namely iteration, manufacturing, testing, and teamwork. This study used a survey to collect information about the experiences of undergraduate engineering students in engineering clubs. In this work in progress, we present the initial results of the students’ perceptions of skill development, self-efficacy, and time spent on engineering clubs. With a clearer understanding of where and how students learn outside the classroom, engineering schools can better allocate resources to facilitate learning.

Drinkwater, K., & Boyd-Sinkler, K., & Simmons, R. (2023, June), Why Should You Join? Exploring the Role of Engineering Clubs on the Undergraduate Engineering Experience Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--44043

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