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A Learning Community for First-Year Engineering Courses

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.53.1 - 22.53.10



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Paper Authors


Ding Yuan Colorado State University, Pueblo

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Ding Yuan received the B.S. degree in industrial automation from Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, Liaoning, China, in 1998 and the Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, in 2006. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Engineering at Colorado State University, Pueblo.

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Jude L. DePalma Colorado State University, Pueblo

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Jude DePalma received a B.S.E.E. with honors from the University of Florida. He received a M.S.E.E. from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Colorado State University. Currently, he is Professor of engineering at Colorado State University, Pueblo.

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Nebojsa I. Jaksic Colorado State University, Pueblo Orcid 16x16

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Nebojsa I. Jaksic received the Dipl.Ing. degree in electrical engineering from Belgrade University in 1984, the M.S. in electrical engineering, the M.S. in industrial engineering, and the Ph.D. in industrial engineering from the Ohio State University in 1988, 1992, and 2000, respectively. From 1992 to 2000, he was with DeVry University in Columbus, OH. In 2000, he joined Colorado State University, Pueblo, where he is currently a professor and the mechatronics program director. Dr. Jaksic's interests include manufacturing processes, automation, and nanotechnology education and research. He is a member of ASEE, IEEE, SME, and MRS.

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Jane M. Fraser Colorado State University, Pueblo

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Jane M. Fraser is chair of the Department of Engineering at Colorado State University, Pueblo.
She was formerly on the faculty at the Ohio State University and Purdue University. She has a
B.A. in mathematics from Swarthmore College and M.S. and Ph.D. in industrial engineering and
operations research from the University of California, Berkeley.

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A Learning Community for First-Year Engineering CoursesAbstractA learning community has been established for first-year students in the Department ofEngineering at our institution. Two first-year courses were linked with shared homeworkassignments. In addition, a three-hour robotics lab was added to stimulate students’ interest inengineering, to introduce students to team work, and to allow students to meet other facultymembers in the program. The above items are known strategies for increasing retention.The primary objective of this learning community is to improve the retention of the first-yearengineering students. The learning community has been established for two first-yearengineering courses Introduction to Engineering and Problem Solving for Engineers. Both ofthem introduce programming concepts and two programming languages to the learningcommunity of the first-year engineering students. While Introduction to Engineering is a broad-based preliminary course for all freshman students who are interested in engineering, ProblemSolving for Engineers is a more specific MATLAB-based programming course. The learningcommunity is established first by having joint homework/lab assignments in both MATLAB andExcel. These assignments consist of reading and manipulating data, applying formulas and thenplotting the results.Second, the Introduction to Engineering course has a lab in which each group of students buildsand programs a LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robot to accomplish certain tasks by using theMindstorms NXT graphical programming language. In the near future, in the Problem Solvingfor Engineers course, a joint assignment will be given to finish the same tasks by usingMATLAB to help the students learn the differences between a text-based programming languagelike MATLAB and a graphical programming language like Mindstorms NXT. Furthermore, thebest robots will be displayed in cabinets near the classroom along with the team pictures.Third, there were monthly meetings of the faculty teaching the first year courses. The discussionsincluded the students’ performance, class schedules and other related issues dealing with thelearning community of first-year students.A survey was developed and administered before and after the robotics lab to evaluate students’satisfaction and the knowledge gained. The results show an improvement in students’satisfaction of the overall experience. The effect of the learning community on students’ learningand retention was assessed. The students that are enrolled in only one of the classes served as acontrol group.

Yuan, D., & DePalma, J. L., & Jaksic, N. I., & Fraser, J. M. (2011, June), A Learning Community for First-Year Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17335

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