By Klarize Medenilla
Cal Poly Pomona hosted the American Society for Engineering Education 2016 Pacific Southwest Conference on April 21-23.
Students and educators from the Pacific Southwest region of ASEE ” which includes California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada ” gathered at the Bronco Student Center to share innovative approaches and strategies to streamline engineering and engineering technology education in K-12 as well as higher education institutions.
The conference hosted poster showcases, panel discussions, individual paper and workshop sessions, a networking social, an awards banquet as well as a tour around CPP’s W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center.
The conference’s theme was “Enhancing Public Awareness of the Engineering Profession,” and it placed an emphasis on student outreach, increasing participation and success for all students and promoting the achievement for students belonging to historically underrepresented minority groups.
The submitted papers discussed a wide range of topics. Talking points ranged the broad, overarching themes like promoting overall undergraduate success and engagement to narrow, specified areas like improving calculus education specifically for engineers.
According to Lily Gossage, the 2015-16 ASEE PSW chair, it was important to hold this conference at CPP because it shows students the possibilities open to those studying engineering as well as other science, technology, engineering and mathematic disciplines.
“Because it’s being held on the campus, our own students don’t have to travel far and because we’re a polytechnic [university] makes it much more meaningful,” said Gossage, who is also the director of the Maximizing Engineering Potential program at CPP’s College of Engineering.
As the first woman of color chair of ASEE PSW, Gossage made sure that diversity was central throughout the conference. Many attendees presented research projects that focused on the success of minority groups in STEM and the effectiveness in streamlining STEM education to guarantee success for all.
“We want to make sure that outside the engineering profession we also recognize that our nation is becoming more diverse,” said Gossage. “These are very important times for folks in disciplines where we still have minority students as the underrepresented.”
Audrey Aday, a fourth-year psychology student at CPP, presented a poster for her study “Belonging Uncertainty Among Women in Engineering: Can Wonder Woman Save the Day?” which examines feelings of self-doubt among female engineering students.
“We found that women in the College of Engineering have lower levels of social belonging and higher levels of ability uncertainty, which basically means they don’t feel like they have what it takes to be here,” said Aday.
Promoting student outreach was also a common solution found by many of the researchers.
Gerri Cole, outreach program director at CPP’s College of Engineering, conducted a study on female underrepresentation in engineering called “An Innovative Approach to Recruit and Retain Historically Underrepresented Students in Engineering.”
The study examined the effects of WE Chat, a mentoring workshop developed by CPP’s Women in Engineering program that focuses on maintaining retention of female students in engineering. According to Cole, the study declared a positive correlation between an increase of student outreach programs and female student retention.
One of the most anticipated panels was the “Women & Men in STEM Higher Education: Navigating Family & Work-Life Balance” in which college faculty and administrators shared personal stories about how they struggled to succeed in their careers while trying to maintain their families.
G. Marie Talnack, director of technology transfer/industry clinic at the Office of Research, emceed the awards banquet dinner held on Friday evening, which recognized several individuals and research papers.
Amelito Enriquez, an engineering and mathematics professor at Caeada College, and Rebecca Marie Kandell, an undergraduate biomedical engineering student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, received the “Outstanding Teaching” and “Outstanding Student” awards, respectively.
Sohum Sohoni, engineering and computing systems professor at Arizona State University, won “Best Paper” for his study, “Comparing Cooperative Learning in Online and In-Person Versions of a Microprocessors Course.”
Shannon Ciston, chemical and biomolecular engineering professor at UC Berkeley, received “Best Diversity Paper” for her study, “A Multi-Institutional Study of the Relationships between Nontraditional and Traditional Undergraduate Engineering Students,” which examined the recent increase of adult engineering students over the age of 25 years old.
According to Talnack, recognizing the achievements of students in engineering and other STEM-related disciplines is important because it promotes a greater drive and initiative among young, aspiring engineers.
“We can’t solve all the world’s problems but we have great thinkers and technologists in this room today who are going to set a pace for the next generation,” said Talnack.
Klarize Medenilla / The Poly Post
American Society for Engineering Education 2016
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