Building Diversity in Engineering Competition Teams by Modeling Industry Best-Practices

Each year, thousands of students compete in student, experiential-learning, engineering competition teams (SELECT) to practice and improve their engineering skills. SELECT attract tremendous resources from both industry and academia. Despite considerable efforts over the past decades to recruit and retain women and minorities in engineering, female and minority students still comprise a small portion of SELECT participants.
This paper stems from a multi-year research project to identify and explain which factors contribute to cultures of inclusion or exclusion among various SELECT. We constructed a survey to determine the generalizability of findings obtained from interviews with SELECT teams and enhance our understanding of cultures within SELECT.

Overall, the survey showed most teams have low participation of female and minority students, even when normalized for engineering enrollment. We identified several factors that might be driving the low participation of women and minorities. First, just over half of the respondents were recruited to the team through invitation by a friend who was already on the team, thus limiting membership to those in the network of current or former team members. Second, the more challenging part of diversifying SELECT is the retention of students that choose to initially participate in team activities. In addition, many teams experienced minimal faculty advisor engagement, with little opportunity to offer guidance on team operations.

To open SELECT to broader student audiences, SELECT should follow industry best-practice for equal opportunity. Industry should closely partner with sponsoring professional organizations to guide the development of policies and processes that are aligned with industry practice. Faculty advisors should also be actively engaged in team mentoring to ensure the successful implementation of those procedures. Leveraging academia-industry collaboration is a step towards building a team culture that is inclusive of all students.

DOI: 10.18260/p.23644

Available from: ASEE Archive

Pan, R., R. L. Shehab, C. E. Foor, D. A. Trytten and S. E. Walden (2015). Building Diversity in Engineering Competition Teams by Modeling Industry Best-Practices. Proceedings of 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, WA, American Society for Engineering Education. DOI: 10.18260/p.23644

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