The demands for increasing matriculation and retention in engineering are exceedingly high. To discover future innovations, the Nation needs many more engineers than it produces. This paper reviews the literature regarding some of the most significant barriers to student recruitment and retention in the physical sciences and engineering, especially with regard to underrepresented groups. Many students traditionally find it hard to be successful in engineering, not because they are not as successful in the key competencies (e.g. mathematics), but because they have not been provided with experiences that will provide the motivation required to complete the degree. The focus of this paper is the need to support students' utility value perceptions, Engineering is typically a rigorous and difficult curriculum for all students, not just those at risk. Therefore, educational tools and interventions are needed that aid in overcoming these challenges and enhance learning of material. We argue that an ideal case for supporting student learning and motivation would be to emphasize Photovoltaics (PV) in physical science and engineering curricula. Specifically, we argue that (a) students' perceived value of learning PV is high given the current climate for the need to develop renewable energy technologies, and (b) PV educators and educational researchers need to work together to optimize the motivational opportunities.