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A Case Study Approach To Freshman Engineering Courses

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Teaching Design with a Twist

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.14.1 - 8.14.9



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Paper Authors

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James Jensen

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2653

A Case Study Approach to Freshman Engineering Courses

James N. Jensen, Ph.D.

Assoc. Professor, Dept. of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Director, Center for Teaching and Learning Resources University at Buffalo Buffalo, NY 14260


The entry-level engineering course is an important element in the development of young engineers and in the retention of engineering students. The objectives of a typical entry-level engineering course are wide-ranging and may include (1) the development of an appreciation for engineering, (2) an introduction to the disciplines, (3) the development of competency with specific engineering topics (e.g., technical communications, engineering ethics, and computer skills), and (4) the building of relationships among students and between students and faculty. A useful tool to achieve these objectives is a set of integrated case studies.

In this paper, the experiences at the University at Buffalo with the use of case studies as the main pedagogical tool in a large (approx. 420 students) introductory engineering course will be discussed. The ideal characteristics of case studies and the goals of case study use will be presented. Techniques for reinforcing key concepts throughout all case studies will be discussed. The paper also will summarize experiences with the evaluation of student performance with limited resources in a large class.

Examples of the case studies will be presented. A set of case studies has been developed to cover the range of engineering disciplines and content (engineering analysis and design methods; engineering calculations; technical communications; ethics; and professional issues). To develop an appreciation of engineering, the case studies represent a mixture of historical engineering solutions, forensic analysis (what went wrong?), and the solution of current and emerging problems. To teach content, the case studies allow the students to identify the tools required to solve a problem.


Many engineering curricula employ one or more freshman engineering courses to train and retain engineering students. The freshman engineering course may be discipline-specific, with different courses for each department or discipline. Some freshman engineering courses are very general and include an introduction to all engineering fields. General freshman engineering courses can be very large and comprise many recitation/lab sections.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Jensen, J. (2003, June), A Case Study Approach To Freshman Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12570

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