ASEE Connections

October 2015




In This Issue:
    • Share of Doctorates Earned by Women Has Flat-lined

    • No Clear End to Debate Over Unbreakable Encryption
    • Pols Seek Answers to Questions Raised by the Gig Economy

    • No Buses Needed: Google Offers Virtual Reality Field Trips
    • Colorado State Gets NSF Teacher-Training Grant

    • A Hook for People Persons


    • Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP)
    • Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP)
    • 2016 Annual Conference
    • Available Now: the 6th Edition of eGFI (Engineering, Go For It)
    • Diversity Committee Newsletter

    • What’s on Tap in the November 2015 Edition of Prism?


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This month’s Databyte explores the trend in women’s share of doctoral degrees awarded over the last decade. In 2005, women’s share of total doctoral degrees awarded was 21%. It increased to its highest level at 25% in 2010 before dropping to 24% in 2012 and has remained at that level since then.

In absolute terms, the number of doctoral degrees awarded to women grew from 636 in 2005 to 1,211 in 2014 at an average annual rate of 8%, which is 2 percentage points higher than the rate at which the number of degrees awarded to men grew.

The data presented here are based on information provided by 400 engineering schools in the United States that participated in ASEE’s survey of engineering and engineering technology colleges.






Leaked White House documents indicate that the administration may be easing back from its previous stance that the government needs guarantees it can access encrypted data, The Hill newspaper reports. Privacy advocates, who include both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the tech industry and civil liberties organizations, have used the leaks to launch a petition drive urging the president to endorse robust encryption, the paper says. Advocates say strong encryption, even if it hinders law enforcement, is the best defense against hackers, will help U.S. tech companies market their products overseas, and could set a pro-security example in a world where several countries – including China, India, France and the United Kingdom – are considering laws to weaken encryption. Law enforcement agencies argue that unbreakable encryption will keep data safe even when there’s a warrant to access it, which will give worrying cover to terrorists and criminals. California Democrat Ted Lieu, who has a computer science degree from Stanford, is one of those pushing for tough encryption, as is Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. But Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin, cochair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., are among those who say the national security concerns trump the rationales for unbreakable encryption. The Hill says the debate appears to be far from settled.



A growing number of U.S. workers are, to use an established term, freelancers. It’s a work arrangement that’s been key to the success of many high-tech startups. Accordingly, the New York Times reports, many policymakers and politicians are making a pilgrimage to Silicon Valley to talk to tech executives on how best to classify and protect these workers. The article explains that Washington only took notice of this issue with the recent, swift rise of Uber, the app-run taxi service. Uber employs 4,000, but the 160,000 drivers it depends on to keep it running are classified as contractors and receive no benefits. Legal questions about job security and benefits have piqued the interest of policymakers. The Times article features entrepreneur Marco Zappacosta, whose startup, Thumbtack, matches freelance workers to possible gigs, including plumbers, yoga teachers, caterers and housecleaners. Zappacosta, 30, has exchanged emails with Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., hosted a visit from Jeb Bush, the GOP presidential candidate, and led a group of freelancers to a meeting with the Small Business Administration at the White House. A new study commissioned by the Freelancers Union estimates that a third of the workforce, 53.7 million workers, do some freelance work. That’s 700,000 more than a year earlier.





Google early this month launched a new K-12 classroom technology, Google Expeditions, which allows students to go on virtual-reality field trips. The 100 or so trips it’s devised so far include the Great Wall of China, Mars, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and key areas of Verona, the Italian city where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is set. The New York Times notes that while classroom high tech is hardly new, Google’s foray into the area is part of a trend of companies designing products specifically for schools, and not just modifying and marketing existing products to them. For now, Expeditions is free, but TechTimes says Google hopes eventually to charge for the devices, if it can get costs low enough. The VR viewers are made of cardboard, and fit over a cellphone. The kits Google is supplying schools include both the viewers and Asus smartphones. Microsoft has used Skype to deliver video field trips to students, but Expeditions is unique for being immersive. It uses 360-degree views cobbled from Street View images, and a 16-camera system to create 3D images, the Times says. Teachers use an app to guide and pause the trips, when necessary.



The civil and environmental engineering department at Colorado State University recently received a $593,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop a program to help engineering majors who want to become secondary-school educators. The money will be used to add a teacher licensure option for undergraduates, and the aim is to develop a training program that will become a national model for other universities across the country to use, according to the Denver Business Journal. Michael De Miranda, a professor of engineering education, tells the paper that “engineering students want to solve problems and make a difference in the world . . . going into middle schools and high schools and preparing kids for the world we live in is another way for engineering students to make the world a better place.” He says engineering students are especially qualified to help show students how STEM subjects can have real-life applications. “Engineering students are well-trained in how to get young people to connect the STEM dots and understand the connections between the natural world and the designed world,” De Miranda told the paper.





Participation in Research Helps Socially Minded Undergraduates Stay the Course and Succeed

By Sara E. Branch, Anna Woodcock and William G. Graziano

Engineering research is critical to scientific discovery and technological innovation. Recognizing the need for career researchers, a number of agencies, including the National Science Foundation, are investing heavily in recruiting and retaining talented students. Despite these efforts, however, statistics indicate a continued need to reduce student attrition from engineering. Our work examined a particular population of students at risk for leaving engineering – those with a high interest in people – and the factors that can affect their persistence toward a career in engineering research.

Consider your interest in the following activities: watching a machine work and meeting a new neighbor. Do you find one more captivating than the other – or both? These questions capture interests in things versus people. Students scoring high in thing orientation are drawn to engineering because it aligns with their interests in things. However, many engineering students are high in both person and thing orientations. The impact of person orientation on interest in engineering is not clear, but research suggests that students scoring high on person orientation may be less likely to persist in engineering. Theories of person environment fit indicate that students’ experiences in undergraduate engineering programs and their beliefs about the professional engineering workplace might fail to satisfy their interest in people.

We were interested in how the undergraduate engineering environment could satisfy person oriented interests. We focused on the role of faculty encouragement and undergraduate research. Perceived encouragement from faculty members benefits students in numerous ways. It leads them to have more positive academic self-concepts, improves both their internal and external academic motivation, and increases students’ feelings of belonging. Faculty encouragement may particularly benefit person oriented engineering students for two reasons. First, encouragement is an interpersonal process and thus social by its very nature. Second, faculty members are likely to encourage students to become involved in the academic environment by participating in activities outside of class, offering greater opportunities for interpersonal engagement. In engineering, a valued academic activity is participation in undergraduate research. Students who conduct research are more likely to stay in engineering and show greater interest in engineering careers. For students high in person orientation, encouragement has the added potential benefit of motivating them to pursue undergraduate research.

Our study examined how person and thing orientations, perceived encouragement from faculty to participate in research, and students’ intentions to be involved in research affect undergraduates’ interest in an engineering research career. Some 292 students at a large public university completed an online survey of their person and thing orientations, perceptions of encouragement, interest in undergraduate research, and career goals. We then used an ordinary least squares (OLS) regression approach to simultaneously test two sequential mediators to explain the impact of person orientation on research career interests.

Our results showed that students who score higher in person orientation perceived greater faculty encouragement to participate in research, which in turn increased their interest in being involved in undergraduate research. The greater the intentions to be involved in research as a student, the greater the interest in pursuing a career in engineering research. Neither encouragement nor intentions to be involved in research alone explained the association between person orientation and career interests.

Students high in both person and thing orientations may be ideally suited for a career in engineering because they are likely to possess both critical interpersonal and technical skills. However, they may leave engineering in favor of careers that are better able to satisfy their people-focused interests. Our findings suggest that encouragement from faculty to participate in undergraduate research may improve the retention of these students. Faculty encouragement can serve as an external motivator that helps to direct person oriented engineering students toward participation in undergraduate research, which in turn may satisfy both person and thing orientations.

Sara E. Branch is an assistant professor of psychology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Anna Woodcock is a social psychology researcher and lecturer at California State University San Marcos, and William G. Graziano is a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University. This article was adapted from “Person Orientation and Encouragement: Predicting Interest in Engineering Research,” published in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education.





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The Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP) is designed to encourage students to pursue science and engineering careers and acquaint college and graduate level students with the activities of Department of Navy (DoN) Laboratories. This opportunity provides students with exposure to scientific and engineering practice and personnel not available in their college/university laboratories. NREIP places academically talented students at DoN Laboratories for 10 weeks during the summer and provides a generous stipend. To find out if you are eligible and to apply please visit,! The application will be open until October 23, 2015.



The Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP) is designed to encourage students to pursue science and engineering careers and acquaint qualified high school students with the activities of Department of Navy (DoN) Laboratories through research experiences. SEAP places academically talented high school students with interest and ability in science and mathematics as apprentices in DoN Laboratories for eight weeks during the summer and provides a generous stipend. These students work with scientists and engineers who act as mentors. To find out if you are eligible and to apply please visit,! The application will be open until October 23, 2015.

2016 Annual Conference

Session Requests Are Open:
• Sunday Workshop and Distinguished Lecture Applications are also available between September 1st and November 2, 2015. • Applications can be accessed by clicking this link and logging in

Author's Kits are Available:
• The 2016 Annual Conference Author's Kit contains extremely important information regarding the submission process as well as all relevant deadline dates and is also available on our website

Professional Interest Councils Special Project Fund:
• The Professional Interest Councils (PICs) have a Special Project Fund available for all ASEE Divisions and Constituent Committees during the 2015 - 2016 ASEE Annual Conference years. For more information click here

• If you have any questions regarding submitting your abstract submission, your Monolith account or the paper management process, please contact The Conferences Team at or 202-350-5720 for assistance.



Help inspire the next generation of innovators with the all-new 6th edition of ASEE's prize-winning magazine for middle and high school students: eGFI (Engineering, Go For It). Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about learning - and doing - engineering. To purchase copies, go to For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact or call 202-331-3500.



Diversity Committee Newsletter:

As we exit the Year of Action on Diversity, the new Diversity Committee Newsletter reflects our widely successful Turning Points panel within which student panelist voices discussed races, disabilities, social, gender and other issues influence on turning points in their career. In addition, you’ll find student essay and video contest winners and more details on the special ASEE rate for a microinequities webinar. Questions and comments can be submitted to








HEALTHCARE: Engineering schools are getting into healthcare from the standpoint of systems and industrial engineering. Teams of undergraduates and graduate students pair up with hospital clinicians and mentors to improve effectiveness, efficiency, and quality of care in one of society’s most complicated and expensive delivery systems.

TRUCKS: EPA’s ambitious fuel-economy rules for big trucks challenge engineering researchers to reexamine engines, aerodynamics, tires, size and weight – as well as an integration of all these components. Sidebar: How West Virginia University engineers caught Volkswagen cheating on diesel emissions.

Credit: Nigel Clark/West Virginia University

GLOBAL: Can you teach a course in several countries – oceans apart – simultaneously? The University of Southern California and partner schools show how it’s done.




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