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Erika M. Pliner, April A. Dukes, Kurt E. Beschorner and Arash Mahboobin

There is a need for pedagogical techniques that increase student engagement among underrepresented groups in engineering. Relating engineering content to student interests, particularly through biomechanics applications, shows promise toward engaging a diverse group of students. This study investigates the effects of student interests on engagement and performance in 10th grade students enrolled in a summer program for students underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. The authors assessed the effects of interest-tailored lectures on student engagement and performance in a 5-week program with bioengineering workshops, focusing on the delivery of biomechanics content. A total of 31 students received interest-tailored lectures (intervention) and 23 students received only generic lectures (control) in biomechanics. In addition, the authors assessed the effects of teaching method (lecture, classroom activities, and laboratory tours) on student engagement. The authors found interest-tailored lectures to significantly increase student engagement in lecture compared with generic lectures. Students that received interest-tailored lectures had an insignificant, but meaningful 5% increase in student performance. Students rated laboratory tours higher in engagement than other teaching methods. This study provides detailed examples that can directly assist student teaching and outreach in biomechanics. Furthermore, the pedagogical techniques in this study can be used to increase engagement of underrepresented students in engineering.