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A Methodology for Restructuring Our First-year Introduction to Engineering Sequence at University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 11: Curricular and Program Innovations

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.65.1 - 26.65.8



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Paper Authors


Jay A. Weitzen University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Jay Weitzen is the coordinator of the first year program for the college of engineering at University of Massachusetts Lowell. Now in his 28th year at UMass Lowell, he teaches the first year ECE cohort and has been working on curriculum models for improving engagement and motivation of first year students. His research interestes are in the performance of large wireless networks. He is Senior Member of the IEEE.

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Md Mamunur Rashid University of Massachusetts Lowell

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Dr. Mamunur Rashid currently is a lecturer at University of Massachusetts Lowell. He received his BS and MS from Idaho State University, and obtained his Ph. D degree from the University of Utah. Dr. Rashid is a licensed professional engineer and has held several engineering positions throughout his career.

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Stephen Johnston University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Eric L. Maase University of Massachusetts, Lowell


David J. Willis University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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David Willis is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UMass Lowell. His interests are in aerodynamics and engineering education. He works on projects ranging from parachutes to bio-inspired flight and CNCs in the undergraduate classroom.

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A Methodology for Restructuring Our first year Introduction To Engineering Program ABSTRACTThis paper describes our approach to a major restructuring of our Introduction to Engineeringprogram for first year engineering students. We describe the methodology and process we usedto analyze best practices and to find a solution that fit the strategic requirements of the College ofEngineering and the specific needs our growing and changing first year engineering cohort. Much of what we did was based on results of a detailed student survey and a focus group withstudents who had already been through the introductory program. The new first year engineeringprogram was restructured to stress hands on skills building and rolled out starting in the Fallsemester of 2014. In this paper we share key learning's from this process. The charge from theDean was as follows: 1) The total credits (4) cannot increase and he would prefer a reduction. 2) Achieve significant reduction in the cost of running the first year program. 3) The new first year program should focus on teaching critical skills to help students succeed in engineering programs (e.g. improve retention). 4) Allow students to explore different majors through hands on open ended design activities to better understand what engineers in each major do. 5) Make use of the new "maker space" design center. 6) The program must scale to an incoming cohort of up to 1000 students. 7) Be ready with the restructured program at the beginning of the next academic year. The process we followed is listed below. 1) Survey different types of programs at peer and peer aspirant institutions, especially those with similar size and student body makeup. 2) Design a detailed survey for engineering students who had already taken the introductory course sequence to better understand what they actually learned and how useful they felt it was as they progressed through their respective programs 3) Conduct a focus group of selected senior and graduate students in each department to survey their feelings about potential program redesigns based on their experiences with the original program. 4) Come up with two semi-finalists for proposed course models and brief the department chairs individually to determine their level of buy-in for the proposed designs 5) Formally brief the Dean and Chairs Council and have them select the final format for the course from the two final recommendations and have it ready to implement in Fall 20141

Weitzen, J. A., & Rashid, M. M., & Johnston, S., & Maase, E. L., & Willis, D. J. (2015, June), A Methodology for Restructuring Our First-year Introduction to Engineering Sequence at University of Massachusetts, Lowell Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23406

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