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Close to home or communal goals? Socioeconomic status is correlated to engineering problem-finding and relevance

Fogg Rogers, Laura; Sanders, Nathan

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Dr Laura Fogg Rogers
Associate Professor of Knowledge Exchange in Engineering

Nathan Sanders


Inspiring a future generation of engineers has never been more important, as we seek urgent solutions to the Climate and Ecological Emergency. Science communication needs to break stereotypes and challenge perceptions about careers in engineering, inspiring higher numbers and more diverse people into the engineering workforce to shape our shared future.
This study focused on the aspects of engineering which children find appealing – using self-selected problem-finding in the national competition, the Leaders Award. Run by Primary Engineer, the competition asks children aged 3-18 years, ‘If you were an engineer, what would you do?’. A total of 892 entries from South West UK primary schools were analysed. The sex ratio was fairly even, with 53% of entries from males, and 47% from females. Entries were also spread across different socioeconomic areas and ages.
A content analysis was conducted on the types of problems chosen by the children. The most common theme was ‘everyday activities’ (28%). There were no statistically significant differences in the themes chosen by boys or girls, although there was a trend for girls to choose more ‘everyday activities’, ‘environment’ and ‘social’ problems.
There were statistically significant differences between school IMD status; children from schools in low socioeconomic areas were more likely to choose ‘everyday activities’ and ‘social’ themes compared to medium or high decile entries. ‘Pleasure’ was better represented in low IMD entries, ‘environment’ was better represented within medium IMD areas, and ‘infrastructure’ and ‘transportation’ were better represented within high IMD decile entries.
This study provides ideas for how to build connections between engineering and children from different social classes. Children may benefit from science communication which focusses on issues and problems they can relate to, particularly in times of socioeconomic and environmental difficulties.

Presentation Conference Type Presentation / Talk
Conference Name Public Communication of Science and Technology
Start Date Apr 11, 2023
End Date May 12, 2023
Deposit Date May 22, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 22, 2023
Keywords Socioeconomic status; engineering problem-finding; relevance
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