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A Creative First-year Program to Improve the Student Retention in Engineering

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

First-year Programs Division: Retention

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Maryam Darbeheshti University of Colorado, Denver Orcid 16x16

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Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering

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Dakota Ryan Edmonds University of Colorado, Denver

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In this paper, we study the effect of a new first-year program on the student retention in engineering. First-year engineering students face unique challenges attending a university. Due to these challenges many of them leave the program after one year. Research shows that the drop out rate among first year students is the highest in engineering programs. With the main goal of increased retention, it is important to understand the reasons engineering students are not completing their programs. This is a rising concern in all Engineering programs across the nation. The lack of hands-on, team-based experiences in a typical first-year engineering curriculum is one of the main reasons students leave the program after completing their first year. It is difficult for the first-year students to connect abstract math and science with engineering. Therefore, we need a first-year engineering curriculum that can fill the gap between the fundamentals of the abstract math and physics and the application of those fundamentals in solving engineering problems. We have created a first-year learning community as a solution to low retention rate in engineering. In this learning community, the first-year students take the following courses together: • An interdisciplinary freshman experiences course, in which we teach the concept of “Design-Build-Test-Improve-Collaborate” to the students. The students take the ownership of their group projects while working together and building friendships that last for a long time. • An appropriate Math course (Calculus or Pre-Calculus), which is specifically designed to address the applications of math in engineering. • An English composition class, which focuses on “Writing in Engineering”.

The main goal of this research is to improve the retention rate of first-year engineering students, by developing a first-year engineering curriculum that can provide additional support and unique learning opportunities in students’ entry-level classes.

Darbeheshti, M., & Edmonds, D. R. (2018, June), A Creative First-year Program to Improve the Student Retention in Engineering Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29672

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