Making Informed Decisions: EXPLORE Engineering Design Program

  • Holly Algra Dalhousie University
  • Libby Osgood
  • Amanda MacLean
  • Clifton Johnston


Decisions must be made at the age of 16
and 17 that can have long-lasting effects. High school
students are asked to select a specific degree, a
university, and sometimes even a specific discipline with
very little basis for making the decision. The EXPLORE
program was piloted at Dalhousie University in the
Summer of 2014 and 2015 to help girls in high school
make an informed decision about whether or not to
pursue an engineering degree.
10 students signed up each summer to EXPLORE
engineering design in a compressed 2-week schedule
where they participated in 3 short design projects,
culminating in a major project for a client from the
community. The girls developed documentation,
presentation, leadership, and teamwork skills. They
learned CAD software, practiced 3-D printing, and were
exposed to robotic programming. They built and tested a
design for a community partner and defended the design
to a room of people. The students were introduced to
visualization techniques, the engineering design process,
log books, and other essential components that they
would only otherwise encounter during their first year in
an engineering program. This paper will document the
elements of the course that help the girls make an
informed decision about whether or not to pursue
engineering from two perspectives: the instructors' and
the student's.