Engineering Virtual Design Competition - A Solution for High School Summer Outreach During the Pandemic and Beyond (Evaluation)

J. Jill Rogers, Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh, Jennifer Velez

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Aspects of society and culture that encompass the response to COVID-19 have impacted all lives, including those of K-12 students and their families. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic offers a complex context in which students can experience ambiguity with an engineering design challenge as an iterative process of divergent-convergent thinking while focusing on the big picture. Students can learn with an emphasis on systems thinking, making decisions in a collaborative team environment; and managing uncertainty in social processes [1]. The conversations around how schools could function during the pandemic offered a unique opportunity to engage students in problem solving about a situation that they are experiencing themselves. In the US Southwest, three state universities came together during the early stages of the 2020 pandemic lockdown to create a virtual design competition for high school students. The TriU Partnership, including engineering college deans, faculty, and college recruitment and outreach staff from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona, was formed as an outgrowth of a National Science Foundation, INCLUDES project [2]. One of the aims of this project was to increase engineering awareness and interest amongst a broad population of the state and thereby enhance entry into the state's four-year university engineering programs. The TriU Partnership served 96 high school students from 4 different states in a virtual educational event offered in June 2020. Twenty-five teams of students were asked to consider the challenges their high schools faced in achieving a safe reopening in a pandemic. Over six days, participants attended online seminars, consulted with experts and worked with engineering undergraduate mentors to come up with creative engineering solutions for protective equipment, hallway traffic patterns, bell schedules and social distancing in various high school settings. Final submissions included a detailed engineering notebook, a live online presentation, and interviews with a team of expert judges. The expert judge panel was composed of engineering faculty and industry partners. Teams also submitted prototypes and, in some cases, complete CAD drawings. In this paper, we tell the story of the TriU engineering partnership, share the logistics of the virtual design challenge, talk about lessons learned and share results. Data sources include student survey responses, daily exit tickets, and materials produced such as their final presentation, notebooks, and solutions. The TriU Partnership will continue each summer with each university taking the lead, in turn to offer the design challenge as part of their normal outreach efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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