Shifting Gears: The Impact of Extracurricular Exposure on Girls’ Attitudes Towards Engineering

Shifting Gears: The Impact of Extracurricular Exposure on Girls’ Attitudes Towards Engineering
By Miki Makin - 2014

This paper explores the impact of Ryerson’s WEMADEIT Youth Think Tank (YTT) on participating girls’ understanding of and attitudes toward engineering. According to recent research, most teens openly admit that they are not familiar with the specifics of a job in engineering (Intel, 2011), typically associating the field of engineering with independent work and a math and science focus; however, the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) emphasizes teamwork, socially-conscious thinking and entrepreneurship. Existing professional engineering organizations, including Engineers Without Borders (EWB), are also working to introduce the broader concept of the “Global Engineer” – a socially and ethically conscious, teamwork-driven, creative engineer. These recent trends in engineering reveal a disparity between public perception of engineering and the realities of the industry. The WEMADEIT project was formed in order to increase girls’ interest in and exposure to engineering in three ways: by creating a brand that correlates with new trends in engineering; by getting girls involved through an in-person Youth Think Tank (YTT); and by creating a new website (WEMADEIT.ca). Through interviews with five YTT participants, as well as an analysis of the content participants produced for the WEMADEIT website, this paper traces the journeys of a purposive sample of five teenage girls who have participated in the YTT. The researcher’s autoethnographic insights as the daughter of a female engineer further enrich the paper’s analysis and discussion. The findings suggest that exposure to engineering through the YTT generated greater interest in engineering and stronger self-efficacy in participants, opened up post-secondary conversation between participants and their parents and created positive outcome expectations for a career in engineering.