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May 2020


  • Gender Diversity of Assistant Professors, by Region

Sponsored Content: Keysight Technologies

  • Remote Teaching Tools from Keysight


  • New Study Asks: Do Unconscious Beliefs Stymie Efforts to Broaden Participation in Engineering?
  • Buffalo Researcher Investigates Alternative Ways to Assign Homework


  • Management by ‘Minions’


  • Annual Conference Switched to a Virtual Format
  • Web-Based Teaching Tips Welcomed
  • Professional Development for P-12 Teachers


By Angela Edriaw-Kwasie

Faculty gender diversity is viewed as offering students a richer instructional experience. It also provides female students with role models in academia.

Over the period 2008–2018, the population of tenured and tenure-track engineering faculty members became slightly more diverse, with the proportion of women increasing from 12 percent to 17 percent. From 2008 to 2016, the total number of assistant professors was smaller each year than the total number of associate professors and full professors. In 2017 and 2018, the total number of assistant professors was larger than the total number of associate professors, indicating an increase in hiring of new faculty in engineering. The proportion of women tends to be higher among assistant professors than among associate and full professors. The percentage of women has risen over the 11-year period from 20.7 percent to 24.9 percent for assistant professors, 14.1 percent to 20.3 percent for associate professors, and 7.3 percent to 12.2 percent for full professors.

The table below shows the extent of gender diversity among assistant professors of engineering in each of the eight U.S. geographical regions as defined by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The percentage of female assistant professors rose between 2008 and 2018 in all regions except the Mid East region, where it remained the same—25 percent—as in 2008. The Mid East region comprises Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. In New England (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont), the proportion of women assistant professors grew steadily in the three years 2016 to 2018, from 25.5 percent to 31.2 percent. Other regions experienced a rise and fall within this period.

Table 1: Percentage of Female Assistant Professors in U.S. Geographical Regions

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Efforts to bring more women and underrepresented minorities into engineering have largely been based on research focused on understanding those students and their experiences. But their systematic exclusion from engineering is due, in part, to the deeply held beliefs that people in positions of power hold about race and gender, contends Emily Dringenberg, an assistant professor of engineering education at Ohio State University. She recently was awarded a five-year, $597,139 Faculty Early Career Development grant from the National Science Foundation to research “deeply held” beliefs about gender- and race-based minoritization in engineering. The goal of Dringenberg’s research is to broaden the participation of women and minorities by identifying and removing the obstacles they face. Dringenberg’s team will conduct a series of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with engineering educators to unearth and analyze their beliefs about why there are barriers to women and people of color in the field. They will try to situate these beliefs within individuals’ salient life experiences. “These research contributions will directly inform the design of meaningful opportunities for other engineering educators or members of society as a whole to surface and critically reflect on their deeply held beliefs in order to evolve toward more inclusive conduct,” she says. Dringenberg’s subjects are engineering faculty, staff and administrators who are white and male, and who are viewed as proponents of diversity and inclusion by a member of a minoritized group. Broadening participation in the field, she says, will require enabling their development as inclusive educators. Dringenberg has received two other NSF awards, and the overarching goal of her research is to shift the culture of engineering to be more realistic and inclusive.


Typically, most engineering courses used graded homework assignments to assess whether students are learning what they’re supposed to learn. But one problem with that method is that the feedback either comes too late or is limited to only providing a “correct” solution in an assignment. So Carl R. F. Lund, chair of the department of engineering education at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, is researching alternative approaches to homework that give students opportunities to fail, receive timely feedback, and learn from mistakes prior to being assessed on how much they’ve learned. Lund, who is a long-time proponent of active learning and flipped classrooms, is looking at approaches that include scaffolded in-class practice, grading initial assignments only on effort and using “homework wrappers” to better target feedback, combined with explicit instruction of problem-type identification and general solution strategy. Typically, most engineering courses used graded homework assignments to assess whether students are learning what they’re supposed to learn. But one problem with that method is that the feedback either comes too late or is limited to only providing a “correct” solution in an assignment. So Carl R. F. Lund, chair of the department of engineering education at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, is researching alternative approaches to homework that give students opportunities to fail, receive timely feedback, and learn from mistakes prior to being assessed on how much they’ve learned. Lund, who is a long-time proponent of active learning and flipped classrooms, is looking at approaches that include scaffolded in-class practice, grading initial assignments only on effort and using “homework wrappers” to better target feedback, combined with explicit instruction of problem-type identification and general solution strategy.



Highlights from ongoing research into how undergraduate engineering students are coping with online learning forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

By David Evenhouse

For the past five years, our research team has studied blended learning in the context of the Freeform learning environment. The variety of in-person and online learning resources provided by this environment leads to a wide range of usage patterns and behaviors. A recent series of interviews has provided a unique window into engineering students’ experiences this semester, when Purdue University’s campus was shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic and all courses moved online.

The interviews grew out of my current dissertation work, exploring and modeling how students implement the various resources available to them. I had planned to interview a small group of sophomore-level students at four different times throughout the Spring 2020 semester. Only the first two sets of interviews took place before Spring break, when the campus was closed. The shift to online learning forced students to go through new processes of implementation and normalization midway through their semester. Eight of 15 students have continued their participation in interviews thus far.

Below are some emergent themes that we suspect to be representative of these students’ experiences as they make the transition to entirely online learning.

Scheduling and time management dominate students’ reported experiences: During the first two interviews (before the transition to remote learning), students spent the majority of their time discussing scheduling and time management. Students reported that their routines were intimately tied to their course schedule: it helped to determine what times of day they could be productive, when they worked on specific assignments, and what collaborative resources they could engage with. These same themes were echoed after the switch to remote learning. Most interviewees reported that this transition “feels like starting over,” forcing them to manage time and establish routines all over again after losing their synchronous, weekly class schedule. This was especially true of students who felt forced to adhere to their family’s existing routines after moving home.

Advance communication and setting expectations eases student transitions: Five of the eight 3rd-round interviewees returned home after the university closed, and each reported that they would prefer to maintain the schedule they had established while on campus. In actuality, only two of those students were able to do so by calling home in advance, setting clear boundaries on their time and availability before leaving campus. In contrast, students who didn’t set such expectations reported it was difficult to “act like a student” after falling back into their family’s normal routines. Advance communication from instructors also served to ease student transitions. Student interviewees mentioned that classes which included some sort of re-orientation after moving online helped them more easily identify sources of help, and better prepared them for new digital forms of assessment.

Loss of community inhibits collaboration and reduces external motivation: Many students did not realize how often they had asked short, clarifying questions to their peers and instructors before the move to online learning. Earlier in the semester they had described themselves as predominately individual learners. However, chance encounters and quick questions have not translated well into their remote learning environments, sparking reflections on the importance of spontaneous collaboration and their own increasing feelings of isolation. Living within a community also seems to motivate productive study habits while on campus. For example, finishing homework early on Friday each week leaves the weekend open for events, socializing, or studying as needed. However, the change in environment took away students’ external motivators stemming from social interaction and outside obligations, removing inspiration to work ahead or to stick to a healthy routine.

Individual needs and preferences continue to influence students’ study habits: Much like we see on campus, students’ individual preferences continue to play a key role in establishing their own study habits. These preferences influence, for example, whether students seek out opportunities for asynchronous or synchronous communication, how they utilize video resources, when they tune-in to lectures, and what additional sources of help they employ. Likewise, these choices continue to be motivated by the content and assessments delivered in each course. For example, many students reported changing their study habits due to changes in exam formats made during the conversion to online learning.

While these points only scratch the surface of what students experienced during their transition to remote learning, they do provide a starting point for further conversation. As we move into the upcoming semesters, instructors and students alike will be learning how to navigate education in a whole new academic context. Ongoing social distancing efforts or additional shelter-in-place requirements could see students going through frequent transitions between in-class, blended, and online learning environments.

For more on this topic, see previous journal articles here (institutional log-in required) and here.


David Evenhouse is a Ph.D. candidate in engineering education at Purdue University.



A case study offers lessons from a busy maker space where students are not just users but co-owners, in charge of day-to-day operations.

By Jenni Buckley and Dustyn Roberts

Academic maker spaces, design centers, innovation institutes, and creativity labs of all kinds are becoming popular hubs of activity on many campuses, particularly within engineering colleges and departments. These spaces generally offer a physical location with fabrication resources and support for students to learn and work in a hands-on environment. However, they are more than just fabrication facilities because a key element of a maker space is the community itself. The people matter just as much as–or more than–the machines.

A participatory culture that encourages informal interactions between the communities that the maker space serves is what distinguishes it from a facility used only for fabrication.

The Design Studio is a unique academic maker space in the University of Delaware Department of Mechanical Engineering that was designed, built, and maintained as a partnership between the undergraduate student body and the faculty. The space was created and is maintained under tight budgetary, staffing, and space constraints, all of which make student-faculty collaboration essential. Our experience is that members of a team of engaged students—affectionately called the “Minions”—are not merely the end-users of an academic maker space, but creators and co-owners, as well. We assert that a participatory culture should not just be encouraged after an academic maker space is constructed; it should drive the creation of the space itself.

In our case study, we provide an overview of the six-year evolution of the Design Studio from a small, grassroots effort by a team of committed student and faculty volunteers to a department-wide resource that is now utilized by 80 percent of all core undergraduate courses in our mechanical engineering program. We also present our ongoing challenges and lessons learned from relying heavily on Minion support to manage safety, inventory, and day-to-day operations of our heavily-used maker space. For instance, we found group messaging apps such as GroupMe and Slack to be particularly helpful in meeting staffing and restocking needs during high-use periods. This type of immediate all-group communication is a necessary supplement to the weekly meetings, detailed job descriptions, and work area checklists.

Student usage of the Design Studio is extraordinarily high, presenting challenges not only for staffing and supply management but also for safety and access. Eighty percent of all core undergraduate mechanical engineering courses and technical electives utilize the Design Studio’s resources in some fashion. Several courses are held entirely in the space, and all mechanical engineering undergraduates use it for at least one course per semester in each of their four years. In addition, student groups, including chapters of national organizations like the Society of Women Engineers and ASME, actively share the work space throughout the year. As a result, we have had situations where 500-plus unique student users may be simultaneously accessing the space for upwards of 100 different fabrication projects.

Core safety training and manufacturing competencies are carefully coordinated by faculty across six core courses to provide students with increasing levels of access and independence in using Design Studio equipment from their freshmen through junior years. By senior year, students have completed all necessary training and have “open access” to Design Studio resources for capstone projects. We use a combination of online and in-person training for fabrication equipment with high risk of personal injury, and the Minions are fully empowered to reinforce safety and usage rules as well as recommend retraining to student users.

As a student-centered design project, the Design Studio is inherently a work-in-progress. We are not prescribing that other institutions follow our exact pathway and policies, but our case study presents some recommendations that others may find useful. Among them: Involve students in decisions about the function of a particular space as well as work flow; start with the basics (hand tools, drills, an inexpensive 3-D printer), then grow in response to student demand as funding allows; provide open access to tools and materials; recruit and continuously communicate with a core group of undergraduate teaching assistants to maintain, stock, and monitor work areas; don’t assume undergraduate users who are not TAs will maintain and monitor the space; appoint faculty directors who teach core undergraduate courses; and use administrative and technical staff mainly for high-level safety and budgetary oversight.

While our short-term focus is on optimizing day-to-day operations, particularly safety, staffing, and inventory management, our longer-term objectives are to better support student entrepreneurs and leverage our collective experience to support nascent maker space efforts.


Jenni Buckley is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware; Dustyn Roberts is a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania. This article is adapted from “Case Study: Maker Space Management by Minions,” in a recent issue of Advances in Engineering Education.

Image courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory


Job-hunting? Check out scores of openings geared to engineering education on ASEE’s Classifieds Website, including these:

1. Civil Engineering - 1 opportunity

2. Engineering Education - 2 opportunities

3. Nuclear Science and Engineering - 1 opportunity

Visit here for details: http://



Measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have placed limits on travel and large gatherings. Accordingly, ASEE’s 2020 Annual Conference will now be a virtual event. ASEE’s Executive Committee made the decision to shift to a virtual format on April 3, out of concern for the health and safety of members, while also wanting to preserve the ability of authors to present — and attendees to learn — the latest scholarship in engineering education. The conference was scheduled for June 21-24, 2020, in Montreal, Canada. It’s hoped that the same dates will be used for the virtual conference, but that depends on our developing a virtual platform before then. The dates will be announced once we confirm the availability of the virtual platform. For more information on the decision to go virtual, registration and updates, please visit our website:


Notice to readers: As a service to engineering schools conducting online classes due to the coronavirus, last month’s issue of Connections created a new section called Remote Teaching Toolbox, a repository of primers and links to online papers, videos and other tools to help engineering educators adapt to teaching virtually. We now plan to make it a regular or semi-regular section. We invite educators to submit short primers or other materials that their colleagues may find helpful in making the pivot to web-based teaching. Please send submissions to


Teachers, ASEE’s Pre-College Engineering Education division is offering a high-quality professional development opportunity at its virtual conference June 22-26. You will learn best practices for integrating engineering and STEM in your P-12 classroom. The first 35 teachers who register and pay to participate, and who are not yet ASEE members, will have their ASEE membership fee and division dues covered for this year. Optional graduate credit ($150 for 3 credits) is available for those who register and participate. Information about the graduate credit is available at this link.

Important dates:
June 22-26 – ASEE’s At Home with Engineering Education Conference
May 28 – Registration deadline to qualify for teacher ASEE membership fee and division dues
June 20 – Registration deadline for the At Home with Engineering Education Conference & Registration deadline for graduate credit

Benefits of ASEE membership:

  • Access to valuable resources and best practices that can be used to enhance instructional methods
  • Professional connection to other teachers (both university and K-12) that are teaching engineering across the country
  • Expand your professional focus from local and state level to national-level involvement in STEM education.

Click here for conference information and to register. The teacher registration rate is $175.
Questions? Contact Martha Cyr (


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