468466 Engaging High School Students and Their Parents in STEM through Engineering Outreach

Monday, November 14, 2016: 8:00 AM
Continental 2 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Poornima Padmanabhan, Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY and Susan Daniel, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

In 1985, women received 29% of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in chemical engineering nationwide. By 2014, nearly thirty years later, this number has improved to 36%, but still remains a far cry away from representing the diversity of the general population. This disparity is stronger in rural communities, such as the large rural population surrounding Cornell University located in upstate New York. The Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Women’s group at Cornell University holds a day-long outreach event annually to bring STEM to the rural community of New York. We target female high school students and their parents who are starting to think about their future and considering pursuing an undergraduate education. We invite up to fifty students and their parents who live within a 2+ hour radius of campus to visit Cornell and the chemical engineering department. These students are identified by councilors or teachers as students interested in science, and our task is to keep them interested and engage with them and their parents, to provide them with resources to plan a successful application for an undergraduate degree in engineering.

The event is broken into two parts. In the morning, students carry out three different hands-on lab modules. These lab modules evolve every year but focus on chemical engineering concepts such as process engineering to make cosmetics, DNA extraction, and properties of polymers such as silly putty rheology. Parents participate in workshops and seminars to understand the college application process, STEM careers, and college life. After lunch, students collaborate with their parents in a team lab, typically relating to surface chemistry and transport processes. This lab gives the parents to experience engineering themselves and see their daughters excelling in the activity. To quantify the impact our event has on the participants and garner feedback, we collect extensive survey data before and after the day-long event. Our first classes of students (2010-2012) have finally reached college-age and recent follow-up surveys tell us the longer term impact our event has had on their career paths, which has been substantial. In this talk, I will go over some of the past modules we designed and explain how the outreach event is organized. I will conclude with presenting some of the survey data that quantifies the impact our event has with promoting engineering with the surrounding rural community.

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See more of this Session: Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom
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