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Our research project compares two first-year engineering course project pedagogies to identify approaches that enhance the likelihood of women continuing in engineering majors and entering engineering careers. Specifically, we compare the problem-based learning (PBL) model to a more general experiential learning approach centered on the engineering design process, referred to here as the traditional engineering design model (TED). We hypothesize that the PBL model, with extensive faculty facilitation, will increase the likelihood of women persisting in an engineering degree, achieving higher grades in future classes, and going into engineering careers. Our research is grounded in motivational theory, and particularly in a model that integrates aspects of existing theories including participation-identification, expectancy-value, and self-efficacy. We are testing this integrated model and the research hypothesis through a longitudinal, mixed-method analysis, with data collected from five cohorts at two large research universities.