The American engineering workforce lacks the size and diversity needed to maintain its place as the world leader in science and technology. Across the United States, academic institutions are attempting to retain men and especially women in engineering degree paths by providing introductory coursework that motivates them to persist to graduation. Epistemic games provide students with an authentic engineering experience that may increase their persistence towards engineering degrees. This authentic experience, which we refer to as a virtual internship, helps students create an engineering epistemic frame, in which their skills and knowledge are linked a developing engineering identity, values, and epistemology. RescuShell is an epistemic game that was developed to provide this virtual internship experience for first-year engineering students and increase the persistence of women. In RescuShell, students complete a biomechanical engineering design project in which they create an arm joint for a human enhancement suit. Students research the joint’s actuators, control sensors, power sources, types of articulation, and materials. Completed designs are assessed by the company’s various stakeholders for their ability to meet thresholds for safety, agility, payload, work capacity, reliability, and cost. We anticipate that RescuShell will motivate more men and women to persist to engineering degrees and future careers in the engineering profession than traditional first-year engineering coursework.

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