Free ticketed event
Research and evaluation of several K-12 outreach programs and the undergraduate curriculum at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) increasingly point toward the value of experiential, project-based learning in supporting persistence by girls and women in engineering pathways. WPI now provides a continuum of programs and curricula for girls and women in middle school, high school, and the college years, all of which focus on a real, open-ended project with an integrated engineering and social context, combined with strong elements of collaboration, teamwork, and the support of role models and mentors.
The workshop will begin with a brief summary of research and evaluation on the outcomes of the following WPI programs and curricula: Camp Reach for middle school girls, winner of a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM); the Reaching High program for young women in their sophomore or junior year of high school; and the Great Problems Seminar and Interactive Project for first-year and third-year college students, respectively. All are associated with high levels of participation, persistence, and/or retention of girls and women. Workshop participants will also be invited to share evaluation results from their programs.
We will then explore high-impact strategies of WPI programs in more depth, particularly the use of projects with a clear social or service context and a real client, the creation of a “scaffold” of role models and mentors, and collaborative teamwork. Some or all of these strategies can be applied in a wide range of K-12 outreach programs, including one-day experiences, after school and other types of academic year programs, and summer camps, along with curricular and co-curricular activities at the college level. Workshop participants will brainstorm ways of incorporating or strengthening these elements in existing or new programs at their institutions. Workshop activities will include a mix of information sharing, small group discussions, and individual planning. Participants will be provided with resources on project identification and implementation, training and development of program staff, and mentoring activities. The presenters will include an engineering faculty member, admissions staff member, and an undergraduate student, all of whom have been involved in offerings of these WPI programs for different age groups.
Chrysanthe Demetry is associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Morgan Teaching & Learning Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her teaching and scholarship focus on K-12 engineering outreach, materials science education, use of educational technology to enhance learning, and intercultural learning in experiential education abroad. With funding from the National Science Foundation in 1997, she co-founded the Camp Reach engineering outreach program for middle school girls. Since that time, the program has been recognized with two national awards: the Women in Engineering Program Award from WEPAN in 2003 and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) in 2011. Demetry published a longitudinal study of the long-term outcomes of Camp Reach that won the ASEE Best Paper Awards in the Women in Engineering Division and PIC IV in 2007. She is also a practitioner of experiential project-based learning at the college level, regularly advising student projects in WPI’s first-year Great Problems Seminars and the third-year Global Perspective Program.
Suzanne Sontgerath is experienced in the management of K-12 STEM outreach programs. Past experience includes the management of WPI’s sub award for the four institution National Science Foundation grant entitled “4 Schools for WIE (Women in Engineering).” In addition, she assisted with the development of a supplemental elementary reading and mathematics curriculum for K-4 students. Sontgerath has also assisted with the development of engineering curriculum units for middle school students. As the coordinator for pre-college programs within WPI’s undergraduate admissions office, Sontgerath is responsible for the development and delivery of numerous STEM outreach programs at both the middle and high school levels. In particular, she is the co-director of Camp Reach, WPI’s award-winning engineering outreach program for middle school girls. In this capacity, she has developed and delivered engineering curriculum for the program. She currently supervises the program staff including middle school teachers and manages the institutional logistics associated with delivery of the camp. Sontgerath has several publications related to developing engineering curricula for middle school students and encouraging women in engineering. She holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering and is currently pursuing an M.Ed.