Engineer Your Life: Evaluation Report for Year 3
In an effort to prepare female high school students for a college curriculum and achieve gender parity in the engineering industry, WGBH has developed an initiative entitled, Engineer Your Life (EYL). The initiative is targeted toward female high school students, career counselors/educators, and professional engineers. It is designed to: 1) increase these target audiences' understanding of engineering, 2) inspire young women to explore engineering as a career option and 3) help adults encourage young women to investigate engineering opportunities. One component of this initiative involves collecting survey and other types of data to both track changes in attitudes and knowledge over time as well as to evaluate the impact of the EYL initiative. The study was designed to capture data over a period of three years from the three main cohorts of interest: professional engineers, career counselors and educators, and college-bound females. The study was not designed to be a longitudinal study of the same individuals over time. Rather, the surveys will capture data from unique members of each cohort over time. These data provide a snapshot of attitudes, knowledge and beliefs among key audiences at three points in time: before the EYL initiative was launched, the year of its launch, and one year after EYL was launched. This study provides evidence that the EYL initiative has had a positive impact on the students, counselors, educators, engineers and outreach partners who have participated in it. EYL has helped educate participants about what the field of engineering is like, the potential impact of engineering on society, and how to prepare for a career in engineering. By providing resources for student mentors, such as educators, counselors, and engineers, and by providing resources directly to students, EYL has helped to encourage academically-prepared, female students to consider a career in engineering. For the second year in a row, there is evidence that EYL has encouraged college-bound, high school females to consider engineering as an attractive career option and has taught them how to prepare for it. This study found that although many students in Year 2 and 3 were interested in engineering (many more than in the baseline year of the study), students who had been exposed to EYL resources (such as the website, video profiles, posters, or career fairs) were significantly more likely to report that they wanted to be engineers than students in Years 2 and 3 who were unfamiliar with EYL. In fact, for the second year in a row, engineering was the most frequently chosen career option among all students, but especially for students who had been exposed to EYL. Most of the students who viewed the EYL website indicated that the website helped them learn more about engineering (95.3% in Year 2 and 91.7% in Year 3). Most students also indicated that the website made them more interested in engineering as a career (87.9% in Year 2 and 77.8% in Year 3) and inspired them to take an engineering class in college (75.5% in Year 2 and 77.8% in Year 3). EYL has helped female students to see engineering as an opportunity to do the kind of work they are most interested in: work that enables them to be creative and to help society. When we asked students to tell us the most important factors in a career, students across all three years told us they wanted to (1) have fun, (2) have time for family and friends as well as work and (3) be successful, and (4) contribute to society or make a difference in people's lives. For example, roughly half of the students across all three years said they would be very interested or interested in designing life saving medical devices for patients with heart disease and in teaching communities to make their drinking water safe. Students who had been exposed to EYL resources were more likely to understand that engineering careers could meet their needs. For example, we found that students in Years 2 and 3 who were familiar with EYL were significantly more likely than those students who were unfamiliar with EYL to believe that the following skills were important to engineers: Imagination and creativity People skills Public speaking skills Moreover, we found that students in Years 2 and 3 who were familiar with EYL were significantly more likely than students who were unfamiliar with EYL to believe that engineering offered them the opportunity to (1) think creatively, (2) make a difference in people's lives, and (3) work in lots of different settings. Most students who used the EYL website indicated that the website helped them understand what they should do if they wanted to become engineers (79.2% in Year 2 and 75.0% in Year 3). Coalition partners reported that EYL offers them a useful resource that enables them to more effectively reach out to their target audiences. Coalition partners reported that EYL's emphasis on engineering as a philanthropic and creative field has changed the way they represent engineering careers to girls. As reported in Year 2, EYL coalition members reported that they use a wide cross-section of EYL materials to supplement or structure their own programs and enhance their own messaging. Moreover, members reported that the way EYL represented engineering has been effective in reaching their target audiences. In terms of specific resources, members reported that the EYL video profiles were overwhelmingly well-received by students. Partners believed that the videos effectively challenged stereotypes of engineering careers and changed many girls' perception of engineering.