Scholarly Works, Engineering Education

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  • Structural Impediments Impacting Early-Career Women of Color STEM Faculty Careers
    Woods, Johnny C.; Lane, Tonisha B.; Huggins, Natali; Leggett Watson, Allyson; Jan, Faika Tahir; Johnson Austin, Saundra; Thomas, Sylvia (MDPI, 2024-05-28)
    Women of Color faculty continue to experience many challenges in their careers, especially in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. As such, more research is needed that considers structural issues inhibiting their success. Using structuration theory and critical race feminism as a conceptual framework, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 19 faculty and administrators in STEM departments at higher education institutions to investigate their perceptions of structural impediments impacting early-career Women of Color STEM faculty careers. Our findings revealed the need to establish policies that are clear, documented, and transparent. Additionally, incremental approaches to tenure and promotion evaluations should be reconsidered, especially when this approach may position Women of Color faculty to appear as if they are underperforming, when the opposite may be true. Furthermore, as higher education institutions endeavor to diversify the professoriate, this study is significant in enabling institutions and STEM departments to be aware of systemic issues confronting them to make significant inroads in retaining and advancing Women of Color faculty in these disciplines.
  • Exploring Students’ Experiences with Mindfulness Meditations in a First-Year General Engineering Course
    Martini, Larkin; Huerta, Mark Vincent; Jurkiewicz, Jazmin; Chan, Brian; Bairaktarova, Diana (MDPI, 2024-05-29)
    With growing mental health concerns among college students, they need to effectively develop skills to alleviate stress amidst the demands of university life. Teaching mindfulness skills to engineering students early in their programs, such as during introductory courses, may provide students with the tools they need to effectively cope with academic stressors, support well-being, and mitigate mental health concerns. This study aimed to understand the variation in experiences of engineering students who participated in weekly mindfulness meditation during a first-year cornerstone engineering course. This study used a thematic analysis approach to analyze students’ in-class, weekly reflections from eight meditation exercises across two course sections. The frequency of codes and themes were then analyzed across meditation types to identify trends in student experiences. Our results show that the most common student experience from engaging in mindfulness meditation was feeling less stressed, calmer, and more relaxed. Other positive experiences include feeling more energized and focused. Some students, however, did report some negative experiences, such as distress and tiredness. The Dynamic Breathing exercise, in particular, showed higher rates of negative experiences than other meditation types. The results also demonstrate that different types of meditations produce different student experiences. Meditation exercises with open monitoring components showed higher rates of insight/awareness and difficulty focusing attention than focused attention meditations. These findings indicate that utilizing weekly mindfulness exercises in introductory engineering courses can benefit students’ overall mental health and well-being when adequately implemented.
  • Inspiring Sustainability in Undergraduate Engineering Programs
    Griesinger, Tina; Reid, Kenneth; Knight, David; Katz, Andrew; Somers, John (MDPI, 2024-06-13)
    The number of engineers who are transitioning into environmental sustainability careers is growing, though a gap still exists between the supply and demand. This presents an opportunity for undergraduate engineering students to fulfill the demand as environmental sustainability professionals. This qualitative exploratory study investigated environmental sustainability learning experiences and future career interests in environmental sustainability. The social cognitive theory (SCCT) was utilized as a theoretical lens, exploring undergraduate students’ environmental sustainability interests, related learning experiences and their interest in pursuing a future career in environmental sustainability. Twenty-five undergraduate engineering students in various engineering disciplines were interviewed for this study. Data were analyzed to (1) identify the students’ interest in pursuing a career in environmental sustainability, (2) determine if the students’ interests have changed since they began their undergraduate studies, and (3) explore how learning experiences have impacted the students’ future career choices. The findings posit that exposure to environmental sustainability learning experiences is impactful and plays an important role, impacting the students’ interests in pursuing careers in sustainability. The results reveal that elements such as personal beliefs and salary considerations inspire career choices. This research contributes to addressing the demand for additional working professionals who are prepared to tackle environmental sustainability issues, highlighting the role of learning experiences in shaping students’ career interests.
  • Identity Trajectories of Faculty Members through Interdisciplinary STEAM Collaboration Paired with Public Communication
    Desing, Renee M.; Pelan, Renee; Kajfez, Rachel L.; Wallwey, Cassie; Clark, Abigail M.; Gopalakrishnan, Sathya (MDPI, 2024-04-25)
    Faculty members in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are accustomed to presenting their research findings through journal publications, conference presentations, textbooks, and other academic mediums. However, the audience for these traditional forms of communication are other researchers, which raises concerns about how science research and knowledge are communicated to audiences who have less expertise on these topics. We sought to understand how faculty members develop their identities through collaborative professional development opportunities aimed at growing communication skills to communicate with audiences less familiar with research through interdisciplinary science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) activities. We conducted a qualitative, longitudinal study with sixteen STEAM faculty members to explore their identity trajectories as their interdisciplinary cohorts participated in various collaborations to engage with public audiences about their research. Through our analysis, we found that each faculty member’s dominant identity played a significant role in their identity trajectory through their professional development. We observed a significant growth in faculty members’ communication skills, such as learning new presentation techniques to engage others in their research areas of expertise and in their understanding of interdisciplinary STEAM collaboration. Our results provide insights into the identity trajectories of faculty members and how their identity development through these interdisciplinary STEAM collaborations will impact their formal education roles as researchers and teachers moving forward.
  • Narrative Characteristics in Refugee Discourse: An Analysis of American Public Opinion on the Afghan Refugee Crisis After the Taliban Takeover
    Dogan, Hulya; Nguyen, Kiet; Lourentzou, Ismini (ACM, 2024-04-23)
    The United States (U.S.) military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 was met with turmoil as the Taliban regained control of most of the country, including Kabul. These events have affected many and were widely discussed on social media, especially in the U.S. In this work, we focus on Twitter discourse regarding these events, especially potential opinion shifts over time and the effect social media posts by established U.S. legislators might have had on online public reception. To this end, we investigate two datasets on the war in Afghanistan, consisting of Twitter posts by self-identified U.S. accounts and conversation threads initiated by U.S. politicians. We find that Twitter users’ discussions revolve around the Kabul airport event, President Biden’s handling of the situation, and people affected by the U.S. withdrawal. Microframe analysis indicates that discourse centers the humanitarianism underlying these occurrences and politically leans liberal, focusing on care and fairness. Lastly, network analysis shows that Republicans are far more active on Twitter compared to Democrats and there is more positive sentiment than negative in their conversations.
  • Bridging the Gap: Early Education on Robot and AI Ethics through the Robot Theater Platform in an Informal Learning Environment
    Mitchell, Jennifer; Dong, Jiayuan; Yu, Shuqi; Harmon, Madison; Holstein, Alethia; Shim, Joon Hyun; Choi, Koeun; Zhu, Qin; Jeon, Myounghoon (ACM, 2024-03-11)
    With the rapid advancement of robotics and AI, educating the next generation on ethical coexistence with these technologies is crucial. Our research explored the potential of a child-robot theater afterschool program in introducing and discussing robot and AI ethics with elementary school children. Conducted with 30 participants from a socioeconomically underprivileged school, the program blended STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) with the arts, focusing on ethical issues in robotics and AI. Using interactive scenarios and a theatrical performance, the program aimed to enhance children’s understanding of major ethical issues in robotics and AI, such as bias, transparency, privacy, usage, and responsibility. Preliminary findings indicate the program’s success in engaging children in meaningful ethical discussions, demonstrating the potential of innovative, interactive educational methods in early education. This study contributes significantly to integrating ethical robotics and AI in early learning, preparing young minds for a technologically advanced and socially responsible future.
  • Catalyzing Organizational Change for Equity in Graduate Education: A Case Study of Adopting Collective Impact in a College of Engineering
    Lee, Walter C.; Holloman, Teirra K.; Knight, David B.; Huggins, Natali; Matusovich, Holly M.; Brisbane, Julia (MDPI, 2024-03-10)
    Graduate education in engineering is an extremely challenging, complex entity that is difficult to change. The purpose of this exploratory research paper was to investigate the applicability of the Collective Impact framework, which has been used within community organizing contexts, to organize the change efforts of a center focused on advancing equitable graduate education within engineering. We sought to understand how the conditions of Collective Impact (i.e., common agenda, backbone organization, mutually reinforcing activities, shared measurement system, and continuous communication) could facilitate the organization of equity-focused change efforts across a college of engineering at a single institution. To achieve this, we took an action research approach. We found the Collective Impact framework to be a useful tool for organizing cross-sectional partnerships to facilitate equity-focused change in graduate education; we also found the five conditions of Collective Impact to be applicable to the higher education context, with some intentional considerations and modifications. Through coordinated efforts, the Collective Impact framework can support the goal of reorienting existing decentralized structures, resource flows, and decision processes to foster bottom-up and top-down change processes to advance equitable support for graduate students.
  • How to Interview the Crowd: Enlisting Informal Student Feedback in a Formative Assessment Process
    Van Tyne, Natalie; Soledad, Michelle; Chambers, Benjamin; Goldschneider, Benjamin (ASEE Conferences, 2023-07)
  • Believing the Results: Validation of the Tuckman Team Development Questionnaire for Use with Engineering Student Design Teams
    Van Tyne, N. C. T.; Chowdhury, T. M.; Kim, D.; Ortega, J. D.; Soledad, M. (ASEE Conferences, 2023-06-25)
  • Before and After: Team Development in Virtual and In-Person Transfer Student Engineering Design Teams
    Van Tyne, Natalie (2022-08-23)
    This Evidence-Based Practice paper contains the similarities and differences in team development among first-year engineering design teams containing transfer students in the online Fall 2020 and in-person Fall 2021 semesters. These two different course environments were expected to produce different experiences in team development between the two cohorts. While this study involves only transfer students, based on currently available data, a similar study could be conducted after the Spring 2021 semester with first-year students who began college at their current institution. My research question is: • How do team development experiences differ under virtual and in-person conditions, respectively and in comparison? The conceptual framework for this inquiry is based on the Tuckman model of team development. This model consists of four stages that Tuckman and others have demonstrated that teams exhibit during their duration: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. This model originated with adult teams in the workplace, but is equally applicable to non-self-selected engineering student design teams. Team members tend to view themselves as individuals rather than as part of a cohesive unit in the Forming and Storming stages. As they transition to the Norming stage, they accept the premise that the team can accomplish more together than if each member acted in isolation. Even if a team forms a contract or charter during the Forming stage, which states how they will operate as a team, the ways in which they actually operate tend to become apparent during Norming. By the time that a team reaches the Performing stage, each member has a clear vision of what the team does and can do, and uses the relationships among team members to accomplish tasks more or less efficiently. The five- or six-member student design teams were assigned through a skills and personality assessment at the beginning of the fifteen-week semester, using the CATME® team formation survey. The CATME results were checked against the students' self-reported data about their current skills in writing, speaking, and engineering graphics before the students were formally assigned to their teams. Research methods followed an explanatory sequential design, in which the results of one or more quantitative methods are used to inform the choice of one or more qualitative methods to collect and analyze data. Quantitative data were collected and analyzed using a 32-question survey about team development stages, followed by qualitative analysis of team-based written artifacts. Available written artifacts included the following: • a team contract, developed by the team during Week 4 of the semester; • a CATME® peer review, administered online during Weeks 7 and 8; • team-based commentary about the results of the team development survey, noting similarities and differences among team members' results, as part of a project and team status update submitted during Week 12; • team-based commentary about additional progress toward team development since Week 12, as part of the final project and team status update submitted during Week 15, and • a final CATME® peer review, administered during Weeks 14 and 15. By Week 12, many online and in-person teams in both cohorts were in strong agreement about their team's development stage as either Norming or Performing. This is a positive outcome, given that the teams had only three weeks remaining to complete the design project and the course. Both types of teams also provided evidence of the following attributes of successful teams, as identified in recent literature: collective efficacy, psychological safety, resilience, individual performance, and communication. However, extensive response bias in survey responses and team-based evaluations indicated that certain online and in-person teams may have been viewing their team's development less realistically because they were required to report on similarities and differences among team members' survey results as part of a homework assignment, and wanted to omit negative results. Certain survey questions were also reported to have been interpreted in different ways by team members.
  • Lessons Learned: Implementing Equitable Teaming Practices in First-year GE Courses
    James, Matthew B.; Chowdhury, T. M.; Ortega-Alvarez, J. D.; Benning, Jennifer L.; Van Tyne, Natalie C. T.; Lo, Jenny L. (2023-06-25)
  • Teaching Complex Introductory Concepts in a Sophomore Circuits Course: A Descriptive Case Study
    Pitterson, Nicole (MDPI, 2023-10-10)
    This descriptive case study explores the teaching and learning of complex introductory circuit concepts in a compulsory sophomore circuits’ course. The study investigates the instructional strategies employed by the instructor to facilitate students’ understanding of intricate circuit phenomena. Data were collected through classroom observations, interviews with the instructor, and an analysis of the course documents. The findings shed light on the challenges encountered by students when grappling with introductory circuit concepts, the effectiveness of different instructional methods, and implications for curriculum design and pedagogical approaches in electrical engineering education. Specifically, the instructors reported students’ prior knowledge, the nature of the content, and the structure of the course itself as some of the main features that impact students’ overall learning of the content. The study highlights the importance of providing targeted support and scaffolding to students, promoting active learning strategies, and incorporating practical applications to enhance the comprehension of introductory circuit concepts in sophomore-level electrical engineering courses.
  • Comparing Self-Report Assessments and Scenario-Based Assessments of Systems Thinking Competence
    Davis, Kirsten A.; Grote, Dustin; Mahmoudi, Hesam; Perry, Logan; Ghaffarzadegan, Navid; Grohs, Jacob; Hosseinichimeh, Niyousha; Knight, David B.; Triantis, Konstantinos (Springer, 2023-03)
    Self-report assessments are used frequently in higher education to assess a variety of constructs, including attitudes, opinions, knowledge, and competence. Systems thinking is an example of one competence often measured using self-report assessments where individuals answer several questions about their perceptions of their own skills, habits, or daily decisions. In this study, we define systems thinking as the ability to see the world as a complex interconnected system where different parts can influence each other, and the interrelationships determine system outcomes. An alternative, less-common, assessment approach is to measure skills directly by providing a scenario about an unstructured problem and evaluating respondents' judgment or analysis of the scenario (scenario-based assessment). This study explored the relationships between engineering students' performance on self-report assessments and scenario-based assessments of systems thinking, finding that there were no significant relationships between the two assessment techniques. These results suggest that there may be limitations to using self-report assessments as a method to assess systems thinking and other competencies in educational research and evaluation, which could be addressed by incorporating alternative formats for assessing competence. Future work should explore these findings further and support the development of alternative assessment approaches.
  • Examining the Setting of Significant Learning Events during the Engineering School-to-Work Transition
    Lutz, Benjamin; Paretti, Marie C. (MDPI, 2023-08-26)
    The school-to-work transition is a critical time for engineers that involves rapid learning across multiple fronts, but relatively little is known about the setting (i.e., how, where, and with whom) of significant learning experiences during this time. The purpose of the study is to examine the setting of significant learning events for recent engineering graduates. We used a multi-case study in which 12 recent engineering graduates responded to weekly reflective journal prompts for the first twelve weeks of their transition from school to work. Participants described significant learning events through a series of open-ended questions. We used both deductive and inductive coding to identify the setting of the event in terms of how, where, and with whom engineers engaged in learning at work. The findings highlight the emergent, social nature of workplace learning and point to critical differences across school and work. To better prepare students for professional practice, engineering educators should consider how they might create learning environments that promote effective transfer of knowledge and skills.
  • Spectrum of Modularity: An Alaskan Case Study of Modular Housing Types
    Nicewonger, Todd; Fritz, Stacey; McNair, Lisa D.; Tinsley, Ryan; Armstrong, Taj (2023-08-16)
    To communicate and utilize research of different options for Alaskan housing, a framework for comparison is necessary. The design work in this document attempts to unify our language and model for approaching modularity in housing by using a set of visual guides to compare variables and characteristics of different housing styles.
  • Resiliency through partnerships: Prioritizing STEM workforce pathways amid macro challenges
    Mathieson, Danny; Cotrupi, Catherine; Schilling, Malle; Grohs, Jake (Wiley, 2023-03)
    Multi-institutional educational partnerships are a promising approach to developing the skilled technical workforce. Inexorably, the ability to maintain such partnership networks that support skilled technical workforce education was disrupted by COVID-19. The purpose of this study is to explore Southwest Virginia's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-focused multi-institutional partnership networks, to inventory the disruptive impacts of COVID-19, and to identify how partnership stakeholders navigated these challenges to prepare students for the skilled technical workforce. This work presents a single-case study design, highlighting the evolving landscape of STEM workforce education partnership networks in Southwest Virginia throughout the pandemic. The team conducted interviews with 19 regional stakeholders focused on the participants' role throughout the pandemic, barriers to STEM workforce education presented by public health and economic factors, and innovative strategies to sustain and expand partnership networks through COVID-19. Two key themes emerged from this study: successful partners maintained network connections through adaptive interactions and actors within the network served as brokers to leverage their connections and expand partnerships in the face of adversity. By taking a contextual view of the role of partnership networks in creating equitable STEM workforce pathways during COVID-19, we develop rich insights into partnership formation, collaboration, resource allocation, and programming amidst challenges to their success.
  • Person-centered analyses in quantitative studies about broadening participation for Black engineering and computer science students
    Reeping, David; Lee, Walter C.; London, Jeremi S. (American Society for Engineering Education, 2023-05)
    Background: There have been calls to shift how engineering education researchers investigate the experiences of engineering students from racially minoritized groups. These conversations have primarily involved qualitative researchers, but an echo of equal magnitude from quantitative inquiry has been largely absent. Purpose: This paper examines the data analysis practices used in quantitative engineering education research related to broadening participation. We highlight practical issues and promising practices focused on "racial difference" during analysis. Scope/Method: We conducted a systematic literature review of methods employed by quantitative studies related to Black students participating in engineering and computer science at the undergraduate level. Person-centered analyses and variable-centered analyses, coined by Jack Block, were used as our categorization framework, backdropped with the principles of QuantCrit. Results: Forty-nine studies qualified for review. Although each article involved some variable-centered analysis, we found strategies authors used that aligned and did not align with person-centered analyses, including forming groups based on participant attitudes and using race as a variable, respectively. We highlight person-centered approaches as a tangible step for authors to engage meaningfully with QuantCrit in their data analysis decision-making. Conclusions: Our findings highlight four areas of consideration for advancing quantitative data analysis in engineering education: operationalizing race and racism, sample sizes and data binning, claims with race as a variable, and promoting descriptive studies. We contend that engaging in deeper thought with these four areas in quantitative inquiry can help researchers engage with the difficult choices inherent to quantitative analyses.
  • Advancing Sustainable Development: Emerging Factors and Futures for the Engineering Field
    Burleson, Grace; Lajoie, Jason; Mabey, Christopher; Sours, Patrick; Ventrella, Jennifer; Peiffer, Erin; Stine, Emma; Stettler Kleine, Marie; MacDonald, Laura; Austin-Breneman, Jesse; Javernick-Will, Amy; Winter, Amos; Lucena, Juan; Knight, David B.; Daniel, Scott; Thomas, Evan; Mattson, Christopher; Aranda, Iana (MDPI, 2023-05-11)
    This study set out to identify emerging trends in advancing engineering for sustainable development, supporting the engineering workforce to address wicked problems, and strengthening pathways between engineering education, industry, and policy. The following question guided this work: What are the emerging factors impacting the future of global sustainability efforts within engineering, and how can these be amplified to increase the impact of engineering for sustainable development? Using an adapted Delphi method with surveys, focus groups, and member-checking interviews, we hosted the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 2022 Engineering Global Development (EGD) Stakeholder Summit. The summit convened industry leaders, innovators, and academics to explore emerging factors impacting the future of global sustainability efforts in engineering. This manuscript synthesizes emerging trends and proposes recommendations for engineering, particularly in the specific focus area of engineering for sustainable development (e.g., ‘humanitarian engineering’, ‘global engineering’). Critical recommendations include the adoption of emerging cultural mindsets, which include: (1) take an interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder approach, (2) consider dynamic and interconnected systems, (3) increase humility and intercultural competence, (4) prioritize diversity and inclusion, (5) increase localization and center community perspectives, (6) challenge the perception that engineering is neutral, and (7) broaden the goals of engineering. Ultimately, this study highlights pathways forward for the broader engineering community to more effectively contribute to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Project-Based Learning Promotes Students' Perceived Relevance in an Engineering Statistics Course: A Comparison of Learning in Synchronous and Online Learning Environments
    Huang, Wen; London, Jeremi S.; Perry, Logan A. (Routledge, 2022-11)
    Understanding statistics is essential for engineers. However, statistics courses remain challenging for many students, as they find them rigid, abstract, and demanding. Prior research has indicated that using project-based learning (PjBL) to demonstrate the relevance of statistics to students can have a significant effect on learning in these courses. Consequently, this study sought to explore the impact of a PjBL intervention on student perceptions of the relevance of engineering and statistics. The purpose of the intervention was to help students understand the connection between statistics and their academic majors, lives, and future careers. Four mini-projects connecting statistics to students' experiences and future careers were designed and implemented during a 16-week course and students' perceptions were compared to those of students who took a traditional statistics course. Students enrolled in the experimental group (a synchronous learning experience) and the control group (an online learning experience) were sent the same survey at the end of the semester. The survey results suggest that the PjBL intervention could potentially increase students' understanding of the usefulness of statistics and effectively enhance their perceptions of belonging to the engineering community. This study summarizes the results of this PjBL intervention, the limitations of the research design, and suggests implications for improving future statistics courses in the context of engineering.