TUES-Type 2: First Year Virtual Internships to Increase Persistence of Underrepresented Groups in Engineering: RescuShell and its parent company RescuTek

This project expands on an earlier TUES-funded project that developed, implemented, and distributed a virtual internship, Nephrotex, for first-year undergraduates in biomedical engineering.

This project uses the virtual internship design criteria and constraints developed during work with Nephrotex to develop a virtual internship, called RescuShell, for another discipline: mechanical engineering. The eventual goal is to produce a suite of virtual internships for the core engineering disciplines—mechanical, electrical, chemical, civil, and industrial—based on fictional product lines in the parent company RescuTek. The goal is to reach more students at more universities with this novel approach to engineering education based on the development of an engineering epistemic frame, which has been shown to increase the motivation of women students to persist in engineering disciplines. As with Nephrotex, it is expected that RescuShell, as well as future RescuTek virtual internships, will particularly appeal to and be especially effective for underrepresented groups in engineering, thus contributing to greater diversity in the engineering undergraduate population.

The project team will develop a novel, high-quality, relevant, and effective computer simulation based on authentic engineering practices that will give first-year undergraduates a more complete and accurate understanding of the engineering profession, specifically mechanical engineering. The vision is to create a suite of simulations that educate and engage students, and increase the persistence of underrepresented groups, especially women, in engineering curricula nationwide. Importantly, these simulations will also allow for measurement of learning gains, motivation to persist, and understanding of what being an engineer means, as well as allow for comparisons across institution, race/ethnicity, and gender.

Since the skills required for success in professional practice are different than those required for success in gatekeeper math and science courses, the first-year virtual internships will stimulate different students to view themselves as capable of being engineers (i.e., to acquire the engineering epistemic frame) and thus increase the persistence of underrepresented groups in engineering. Results will be disseminated to the learning sciences and engineering education communities; the developed and  tested virtual internships will be disseminated to other engineering institutions for implementation.




Completed on August 31, 2015