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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.905 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Imprimir: 1072-8325
ISSN En Línea: 1940-431X

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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2013003830
pages 255-271

GENDER COMPARISONS OF MECHANICAL APTITUDE, PRIOR EXPERIENCES, AND ENGINEERING ATTITUDES FOR MECHANICAL ENGINEERING STUDENTS

Anna L. Pereira
Environmental Health Berkeley, University of California-Berkeley, Berkley, California 94720-7360, USA
Michele H. Miller
Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan 49931, USA

SINOPSIS

This study used three techniques to measure mechanical aptitude: a paper and pencil mechanical aptitude test (MAT), expertise ratings based on observations of students doing hands-on tasks, and performance on physics-based computer games. Students also completed prior experience and engineering attitude questionnaires. On the mechanical aptitude measures, male students scored higher than female students on the MAT and physics-based games at statistically significant levels. We examined correlations between prior experiences and MAT performance and found activities such as repairing things, using tools, and taking technical vocational skills courses to correlate most highly with MAT performance. The prior experience results showed that male students spent many more hours engaging in the activities with the strongest correlations to MAT performance. Based on the attitude survey results, the male students had more confidence in activities such as troubleshooting, creating mechanisms, and figuring out how things work than female students at statistically significant levels. Combined with the findings of others on the importance of practical skills in mechanical engineering work, our results suggest that exposure to more learning experiences that develop mechanical aptitude and confidence will attract more women to mechanical engineering study and careers.


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