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A Freshman Engineering Course Which Introduces Engineering Design And Engineering Fundamentals In The Context Of A Unifying Theme

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.34.1 - 6.34.13



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Paper Authors

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William Keat

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James Hedrick

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Christine LaPlante

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Richard Wilk

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Cherrice Traver

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Frank Wicks

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

Session 1353

A Freshman Engineering Course Which Introduces Engineering Design and Engineering Fundamentals in the Context of a Unifying Theme R.D. Wilk, C. Traver, C. LaPlante, J. Hedrick, W.D. Keat, F.E. Wicks Division of Engineering and Computer Science Union College Schenectady, New York


Five years ago, a new first-term freshman engineering course, Introduction to Engineering and Computer Science, was introduced to the curriculum at Union College. Since then, the course has undergone significant revision based on assessment. The current course is ambitious and seeks to accomplish several objectives. These include introducing the students to the discipline, introduction to and application of the design process and teamwork for solving problems, introduction to the concepts of ethical practices and decision-making, developing good communication skills, and introduction of some basic topics in engineering and computer science. The last of these objectives is centered about a unifying theme of intelligent transportation systems. This provides an interesting and contemporary context in which to present some fundamental engineering concepts. The course is structured with two small section lectures, one common lecture, and a 3-hour design studio session each week. The common lecture is used to bring in speakers from outside. These are typically practicing engineers from the different disciplines who talk about their area and the kind of work they do. The weekly section lectures are devoted primarily to introducing some fundamental engineering and computer science principles all tied into the concept of intelligent transportation. Three main areas are explored: Energy and Cars, Cars and Computers, and Transportation Infrastructure. In the design studio portion of the course, the students learn basic design methodology and apply it to several individual and team design exercises. They also cover ethics, project scheduling, and report preparation. The design studio also includes a 5-week long design project in which the students work in teams to design and build simple, small-scale, electromechanical devices to perform a task. The teams participate with their devices in a large design competition at the end of the term. Along the way they must satisfy project milestones and defend their design in an oral presentation before a panel of faculty judges. This paper describes the details of the current version of this course and discusses the process used to assess the effectiveness of the course.


Over about the last ten years there has been a movement to bring more engineering content into the freshman year engineering curriculum. This has been done by incorporating new introductory engineering courses in the freshman year 1-4. These courses have a variety of content but a common underlying goal is the retention of engineering students. In addition, a properly designed course will not only help retain

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Keat, W., & Hedrick, J., & LaPlante, C., & Wilk, R., & Traver, C., & Wicks, F. (2001, June), A Freshman Engineering Course Which Introduces Engineering Design And Engineering Fundamentals In The Context Of A Unifying Theme Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9290

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