Partners in engineering: Outreach efforts provide holistic engineering education for middle school girls

Jan DeWaters, Susan Powers, Mary Eileen Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Partners in Engineering (PIE) program brings together 8th grade girls and female engineering students from Clarkson University to experience mentoring, leadership, and real-life engineering problem solving. The program aims to empower young women to make informed and educated choices for advanced coursework and careers in engineering and technology-related fields. A team of female engineering student mentors teaches a three-week long engineering problem solving unit to 8th grade technology classes, in which students apply an engineering problem solving process to address and solve an issue that is relevant to their school or community. Students are exposed to the creative side of engineering problem solving and the breadth of the engineering disciplines. The holistic nature of the problem solving activity emphasizes the relevance of engineering problem solving to community, society, humanity, and the environment. Extracurricular mentoring activities provide participants with opportunities to interact more closely and to develop stronger personal relationships. Evaluations have consistently shown that the mentoring/role model component is the most widely appreciated aspect of the program, valued highly by the college mentors, the 8th grade girls, and their parents. While the overall assessment plan includes a combination of quantitative and qualitative instruments to provide an in-depth understanding of the program's impacts, this paper reports findings from the qualitative aspects of the program evaluation. The assessment has shown that the program improves participants' understanding and appreciation of engineering problem solving, increases the younger girls' general understanding of engineering and the potential role of women in engineering careers, provides leadership opportunities and opportunities for increasing self confidence and self-efficacy, and provides positive role model and mentoring experiences. Positive feedback from teachers and parents supports these findings. Comments indicate that the 8th grade girls benefit from their participation in the PIE program - through their contact with the women engineering students, the breath of exposure to professional women in general, and the experience of using math and science to solve a meaningful problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

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