At the 2017 American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference, one of my students published a paper about the success of a unique SWE event at Kettering University, Welding and Machining Day. The paper explained how the event was organized and summarized the feedback from the participants. Diane Peters, the faculty advisor, and I also co-authored the paper. The full paper can be accessed from the ASEE website.
Many studies suggest that teamwork in hands-on manufacturing is beneficial to learning soft skills and manufacturing minded thinking for college level engineering students. Studies also show that a confidence gap exists between men and women in engineering in hands-on and “tinkering” abilities. In classroom exercises involving hands-on tasks, men often step up in groups to perform tasks such as machining and, due to a lack of ability and/or lack of confidence, many women step back and let the men take over. All-female group projects have been devised to study the benefits women can gain from hands-on experience in a variety of tasks from a Mini-Baja team to coding workshops. While those past projects had a focus on group work, this project revolves around individual tasks in order to get female STEM students comfortable with hands-on manufacturing processes. The focus on individual work rather than group work was intended to push participants outside of their comfort zones, give them a greater sense of confidence in their own skills, and evaluate the benefits of individualized hands-on learning.
With funding from the Dean of Students and the Women Resource Center of Kettering University, and help from technicians in the Mechanical and Industrial Manufacturing Engineering departments, twelve students participated in one of two manufacturing activities: MIG welding or lathe/mill machining. All planning, evaluation, and analysis for this project were performed by an undergraduate student. The six students in the MIG welding group had hands-on training from university technicians on MIG welding and air and electric power tools. They applied their newly-learned metal shaping and joining skills to a design project utilizing horseshoes to create projects from useful wall-hooks to geometric designs. The other six women in the machining group each machined their own bolt and nut from raw round aluminum stock. The participants had a unique opportunity to perform the manufacturing processes, encouraging a level of comfort and knowledge of manufacturing techniques and a unique appreciation of modern automated manufacturing.
The outcomes of this project were evaluated by a survey in which the participants assessed the value, engagement, content, benefit, and quality of the event on an agree/no opinion/disagree scale followed by several free response questions. The evaluation had no personal identifiers, but the organizer noted their grade level to see if the participants’ current knowledge base and experiences had an effect on their outcomes. All of the participants enjoyed the event and rated us favorable across all categories. In the free response section, students talked about a growth in confidence, wanting more events like this, and enjoying being able to create on their own with minimal help from technicians. This paper will hopefully help universities create similar programs, and push for exploration of individual projects in creating confidence.
Mann, S. L., Peters, D. L., and Reck, R. (2017, June), Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Welding and Machining Day: Women’s Confidence with Individual Hands-On Manufacturing Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28830