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Abstract

The importance of reducing the gender gap in engineering programs by recruiting and retaining female students is well recognized. Although women hold roughly half of all jobs in the United States, only 24% of STEM jobs are occupied by women. The problem is even more pronounced for engineering, where women held about 12% of jobs as of 2013 (Corbett & Hill, 2015). Consequently, interactive, hands-on outreach programs are a common tool used by universities to encourage interest in engineering from K–12 students. Engineering—Get Into Real Learning (E-GIRL) is a week-long, residential summer program offered by Texas Tech University for female high school students. The primary goal of the program is to help participants make informed decisions about engineering majors and careers. To this aim, the purposes of the program are: (1) to offer a platform for female high school students to learn about the various disciplines of engineering offered at Texas Tech University and other universities; (2) to provide a realistic university experience, including coursework, social, and professional development opportunities; and (3) to provide hands-on exposure to a real-world engineering problem. E-GIRL ran for the second time in the summer of 2016, based on the favorable support it received in 2015. Primary components of this year’s program were a multidisciplinary group project focused on the theme of CO2 capture and storage, as well as a series of two-hour classes taught by university faculty and graduate students in the following six engineering disciplines: chemical engineering, civil engineering, environmental engineering, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science. This paper presents the multidisciplinary structure of the program and its connection to the project that was assigned to program participants. The curriculum structure, the in-class activities, and the method of delivery for each discipline are explained in depth. The assessment of the program’s second year, including comparisons to the results from the first year and modifications to the program based on feedback from previous program participants, are discussed. Assessment was conducted through engineering skills assessment questionnaires, which required students to self-evaluate their competence in 18 skill sets before and after the program. These skill sets are qualities often identified to be important for engineers, and encompass traits associated with problem solving, project management, teamwork, and communication skills. Key results show improved self-assessment for most of the engineering skills after the program. Additionally, the skills that did not show improved self-assessment ratings after the program were consistent throughout both years. Qualitative results show a more matured and complete understanding of engineering and the individual engineering disciplines upon completion of the program. Through oral presentations, participants demonstrated in-depth engagement with the environmental conservation theme of the project. The environmental conservation theme is consistent with the participants’ aspirations for considering an engineering career and championing sustainability, which was highlighted by program participants in 2015 as a desired additional focus of the program. Overall, the program provided an opportunity for participants to experience the multidisciplinary nature of engineering, aided participants’ understanding of the roles of individual engineering disciplines, and furnished a realistic preview of student life in a university.

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Engineering Commons

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