Perceived Barriers and Costs Associated with Participation in Student Innovation Competitions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Student innovation competitions and programs, hereafter called ICPs, such as hackathons, start-up incubator competitions, design challenges, boot camps, and customer discovery labs, have emerged as pipeline-builders and transformative for higher education entrepreneurial ecosystems. Moreover, ICPs foster students' STEM-based experiences and serve as a gateway for career readiness. There is a disparity in ICP participation of students underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) compared to student groups dominating STEM fields. While research supports the importance and benefits of STEM students' participation in these programs, literature discussing the students' perceptions of these programs remains limited. In order to increase diverse students' motivations for participating in ICPs and make ICPs more inclusive learning experiences for all students, this paper will answer two research questions: (i) what are the barriers that discourage student participation in ICPs, and (ii) what are the costs that associate with participation in ICPs? The primary research methodology in this paper is semi-structured interviews. Thirty-eight students (25 females vs. 13 males and 21 participants vs. 17 non-participants) were interviewed after a recruitment survey. The interview questions were crafted and analyzed based on the known scales and theories in the literature, namely the Expectancy-Value-Cost Scale and the Theory of Planned Behavior. Through student interviews, student perceptions of fitting in these co-curricular activities, i.e., ICPs, were explored, with a particular interest being students who are underrepresented in STEM. The complete recordings of the interviewee responses to interview questions were transcribed into text and analyzed using a grounded theory approach. The research findings will contribute to making the innovation ecosystem more inclusive and diverse by uncovering factors that discourage students from engaging in ICPs. Two levels of barriers were identified, institutional and individual. Institutional-level barriers include 'low program awareness' and 'lack of diversity and inclusiveness,' whereas individual barriers include 'not matching self-identity' and 'low expectancy of success.' As for costs, apart from 'opportunity cost,' 'teamwork cost' has emerged to be another important cost dimension that associates with ICP participation. The ongoing research direction is to share the findings with the STEM educators and ICP organizers so that they are aware of these barriers and costs of participating in ICPs, which might be a basis for designing and testing interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2023 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2023 - Proceedings
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9798350336429
StatePublished - 2023
Event53rd IEEE ASEE Frontiers in Education International Conference, FIE 2023 - College Station, United States
Duration: Oct 18 2023Oct 21 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Conference53rd IEEE ASEE Frontiers in Education International Conference, FIE 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityCollege Station

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications

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