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Engineering outreach programs often portray outreach educators as role models for youth. It is widely believed that introducing youth, especially girls, to potential engineering role models will broaden participation in engineering majors and careers. Based on interviews with and surveys of fourth- and fifth-grade girls participating in an engineering outreach program, we question whether youth are looking for career role models, and we challenge the assumption that youth will take up an adult as a role model simply because the adult is presented as such. We question what role these ‘‘models’’ play in the minds and lives of youth and argue that it may differ from what we expect. To be clear, we are not arguing that engineering role models are not important or not influential. Rather, we think it is important to gain a better understanding of how youth, particularly girls, view these potential engineering role models, which will allow us to optimize the significance of these adults to the youth participating in engineering outreach.



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