Ask An Engineer pilot episode focus group

Ask An Engineer is a new episodic video series being produced by the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. The series
addresses engineering-related questions inspired by pop culture references, and the primary goal of the series is to build awareness of Maryland Engineering expertise among prospective students.


Why host a focus group?

The pilot episode relies heavily on a scene from The Office—and leadership wanted assurance that particular pop culture reference would land with a younger audience. I set out to solicit feedback from the target audience to alleviate their concerns.


  • Used a short webform to solicit RSVPs
  • Reserved a large conference room with adequate A/V setup for showing video
  • Ordered 5 large pizzas and sodas (~$140)
  • Showed focus group attendees an early cut of the video two times through
  • Asked the group a series of six questions to prompt discussion

Questions posed

  1. What did you learn from watching this video?
  2. Does the student host seem approachable? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think taking a class with this professor would be enjoyable? Why or why not?
  4. Which pop culture reference resonated most with you and why?
  5. Is there another topic you’d like to see us explore in a future episode of this series?
  6. Any other feedback you’d like to share with us?


  • Participants generally liked the series concept
  • The pop culture references resonated with focus group participants
    • Especially the clips from The Office, Girl Meets World, The Incredibles, and Stranger Things
  • They enjoyed the student host—participants stated she helped make the content relatable
  • In the video they watched, the student host introduced the subject matter expert and then was never seen again; focus group participants wanted more engagement between the student host and the subject matter expert, and suggested the host could reappear at the end of the video to tie everything together
  • Participants wanted a stronger sense of place and suggested making it more obvious that the student host and subject matter expert are affiliated with the University of Maryland 



  • Lack of access to primary target audience (prospective students)
    • Focused on recruiting current undergraduate students instead
  • Retention rate: 7 students RSVP’d but only 4 arrived at the designated place at the designated time
  • Wording of questions posed to focus group
  • Students had smart questions, such as the target audience for the video, but we didn’t want to share too much and influence their feedback!
  • Not all of the feedback provided by the focus group was actionable

Final video product