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Women's Experiences in the Transition from Capstone Design Courses to Engineering Workplaces

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Best In DEED

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

26

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/33566

Download Count

25

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Paper Authors

biography

Susannah Howe Smith College

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Susannah Howe, Ph.D. is the Design Clinic Director in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College, where she coordinates and teaches the capstone engineering design course. Her current research focuses on innovations in engineering design education, particularly at the capstone level. She is invested in building the capstone design community; she is a leader in the biannual Capstone Design Conferences and the Capstone Design Hub initiative. She is also involved with efforts to foster design learning in middle school students and to support entrepreneurship at primarily undergraduate institutions. Her background is in civil engineering with a focus on structural materials. She holds a B.S.E. degree from Princeton, and M.Eng. and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell.

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Robin Ott Virginia Tech

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In 1995 Robin received a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech and has since gained 20 years industry experience. Early job experience included working as a design engineer for a Naval Sea Systems Command contractor where she designed a Countermeasure Washdown System for the MHC-51 Coastal Minehunter ships. She also spent time as an Application Engineer at Parametric Technology Corporation, the creators of 3D CAD software PRO-Engineer. In 1999 she joined Kollmorgen, a motion control company based in Radford, where she held multiple roles of increasing responsibility during her nine years there. While at Kollmorgen Robin worked with Shingijutsu Global Consulting experts from Japan and earned black belts in the DBS kaizen areas of Standard Work and 5S and traveled globally to qualify suppliers in Asia and Europe. Most recently Robin worked as Senior Director of Project Management for a small bio-tech company, Intrexon, located in the VT Corporate Research Center and had the opportunity to introduce manufacturing principles into a highly specialized DNA production facility. Since joining the faculty at her Alma Mater in 2015, Robin has been coordinating and teaching the Capstone Senior Design program in Mechanical Engineering while pursuing graduate work in Engineering Education.

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Marie C. Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-2202-6928

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Marie C. Paretti is a Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, design education, and gender in engineering. She was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to study expert teaching in capstone design courses, and is co-PI on numerous NSF grants exploring communication, design, and identity in engineering. Drawing on theories of situated learning and identity development, her work includes studies on the teaching and learning of communication, effective teaching practices in design education, the effects of differing design pedagogies on retention and motivation, the dynamics of cross-disciplinary collaboration in both academic and industry design environments, and gender and identity in engineering.

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Cristian Hernandez

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Jessica Deters Virginia Tech

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Jessica Deters is a PhD student at Virginia Tech in the Department of Engineering Education. She holds a B.S. in Applied Mathematics & Statistics and a minor in the McBride Honors Program in Public Affairs from the Colorado School of Mines.

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Chris Gewirtz Virginia Tech

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Chris Gewirtz is PhD student in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. His research interests start with how culture, history and identity influence assumptions made by engineers in their practice, and how to change assumptions to form innovative and socially conscious engineers. His dissertation focuses on the identities that engineers improvise at work, and how those align with stereotypes of the engineer as "innovator" or "helper".

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Francesca Giardine Smith College

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Anne Kary Smith College

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Anne Kary, originally from Claremont, CA, is a junior at Smith College majoring in Engineering and Mathematics. Her interests largely lie in Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Education. In her spare time, she dances and plays ice hockey for Smith.

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Abstract

Women's Experiences in the Transition from Capstone Design Courses to Engineering Workplaces

Substantial research over the past few decades has documented the challenges women experience both as students in engineering programs and as professionals in engineering workplaces. Few studies, however, have followed women from one context to the other to explore the ways in which school experiences, and particularly capstone experiences designed explicitly to facilitate this transition, do and do not prepare women for their work as practicing engineers. To address this gap, we draw on data from a larger multi-institution study to address the question, “How do women engineers experience the transition from school to work?”

The sample for this study includes 23 participants from four different universities (three mechanical engineering programs and one engineering science program). All participants identified as “female” on a screen questionnaire that included options for transgender and gender-nonconforming, as well as an option to skip the question. The data set includes interviews with the participants conducted at the end of their capstone design course, responses to open-ended questions sent each week during their first 12 weeks of work, and interviews conducted after their first three months of work. The capstone interviews explored participants’ experiences in their capstone design course, including project role, significant challenges and accomplishments, and perceived learning, as well as their plans for and expectations of their post-graduation work. The weekly open-ended questions asked participants to describe their most significant challenge over the past week and to explain how they addressed the challenge. Finally, the three-month interviews explored participants’ work experiences, including significant challenges as well as similarities and differences between capstone experiences and work, along with their evolving definitions of engineering.

To answer the research question, we will employ thematic analysis to first identify emergent codes from the data set and subsequently synthesize those codes into themes. Preliminary review of the data suggests several potential themes that include overt experiences of gender discrimination, perceptions of (lack of) belonging or competence, and cultural shifts that may not have been effectively addresses in participants’ capstone courses or broader experiences.

Howe, S., & Ott, R., & Paretti, M. C., & Hernandez, C., & Deters, J., & Gewirtz, C., & Giardine, F., & Kary, A. (2019, June), Women's Experiences in the Transition from Capstone Design Courses to Engineering Workplaces Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33566

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015