This paper presents preliminary results of a currently funded NSF project that is developing and validating an instrument to assess the relationship between project appropriateness in domain relatedness, ambiguity, and genderedness and student efficacy in first-year engineering design courses. Because design is a defining activity for engineers, it is widely adopted as a means to introduce students to engineering. Many engineering schools now have first-year engineering courses, which feature engineering design learning in team-based settings. From a student's perspective, motivation and self-efficacy may decrease when (1) the project domain (e.g., electrical engineering) is not directly related to their chosen major (e.g., chemical engineering), (2) the projects are perceived to be overly complex and ambiguous vis-à-vis student preparation, and (3) skewed toward a particular gender (e.g., masculine or feminine oriented). With this work, we aim to assist engineering design instructors in refining content to achieve higher retention rates.