Measuring the Effects of Pre-College Engineering ExperiencesThe implementation of co-curricular and extracurricular pre-college engineering programs hasexpanded dramatically in recent years. Many states now include engineering as part of theireducation standards for both students and teachers, reflecting the increasing acceptance ofengineering at the K-12 level and its potential value to students. In addition to promotingoutcomes that benefit all students regardless of career aspirations such as increased math andscience achievement and greater technological literacy, K-12 engineering programs have beenidentified as a means of recruiting and retaining potential students in engineering.The growth of pre-college engineering programs means that increasing numbers of incomingengineering students will have had some exposure to engineering prior to their enrollment inengineering programs. However, the effects of pre-college engineering experiences onundergraduate engineering students are relatively unexplored. To address this lack ofunderstanding, this study uses a mixed-methods exploratory approach to examine how exposureto pre-college engineering programs affects the experiences of university engineering students.Conducting and analyzing phenomenographic interviews with cohorts of first year engineeringstudents yielded five qualitatively different ways undergraduate engineering students experiencethe transition from pre-college to university engineering. These experiences range from feelingtrapped in engineering due to pre-college engineering, to feelings of boredom and frustration dueto misalignments between the two sets of experiences, to experiencing a boost in confidence andthe ability to help others as a result of participation in pre-college engineering programs.We are currently utilizing these qualitative results to develop an instrument to measure the extentof these effects in the larger population of undergraduate engineering students at multipleinstitutions. We are also exploring the relationship between pre-college engineering participationand quantitative measures of success in undergraduate engineering, including grades andpersistence.While some undergraduate engineering programs may take into account pre-college engineeringexperiences when forming design teams, most undergraduate programs assume little to no formalexposure to engineering prior to matriculation. The results of this research will help engineeringadministrators, instructors and designers of undergraduate and pre-college curricula adapt tostudents’ changing needs and abilities as a result of their increased experience with engineeringprior to university.


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: © 2017 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

Permanent URL: https://peer.asee.org/24478


Engineering education, pre-college engineering, k-12 engineering education

Date of this Version


Published in:

Salzman, N., & Ohland, M. W., & Cardella, M. E. (2015, June), Measuring the Effects of Pre-College Engineering Experiences, Year 2 Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24478