Postprint version. Published in Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2016 IEEE Proceedings, October 12, 2016.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1109/FIE.2016.7757380.
Student retention rates in engineering, especially among traditionally underrepresented groups, remain an obstacle to training a large, diverse engineering workforce. The NSF's Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 indicate that of students entering college with an intent to major in engineering, only 63% graduate with an engineering degree . With research suggesting that misperceptions or a lack of knowledge about what work in a certain field is like can deter students from studying that discipline , , it is possible that providing a meaningful project experience at the introductory level could provide a strong positive impact on retention rates. This could be especially true for disciplines like Digital Design, where students of have little to no exposure to the discipline before starting college. This paper discusses my work to develop a representative design project for introductory digital design students with the goal of increasing retention. My work uses the framework of Self-Determination Theory (SDT)  to design a project with the potential for increasing a student's intrinsic motivation for pursuing their studies in engineering and digital design in particular. I use adapted versions standard SDT survey instruments, such as the Perceived Competence for Learning Scale (PCS)  and the Self Regulation in Learning Questionnaire (SRQ-L) , to determine whether my project is having the desired effect and to what extent. The preliminary results of my work show that my introductory digital design project improved one measure of Perceived Competence-“I feel confident in my ability to learn this material.”-by almost 15% with a significance of P = 0.05. There was no statistically significant change in student responses to the PCS as a whole, however, and the extent to which students experienced controlled regulation as measured by the SRQ-L was unchanged (P = 0.003).
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