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A Paradigm Shift In The Approach To Freshman Engineering Education

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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

Introduction to Engineering: The Present State

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.93.1 - 8.93.16



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Paper Authors

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Anita Mahadevan-Jansen

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

Session 1653

A paradigm shift in the approach to freshman engineering education

Anita Mahadevan-Jansen, Christopher J. Rowe, John Crocetti, Sean Brophy Vanderbilt University


The first engineering course taken by entering freshmen offers an opportunity to lay the foundation for forthcoming years. At Vanderbilt University, this first course is an introduction to computing in engineering. The focus of this skills-based course, required of all freshmen engineers, has traditionally been to instruct students on how to use various computing tools in engineering. While this strategy was extremely relevant a few years ago with emergent computing hardware, current freshmen are typically computer literate, with increasing knowledge on applicable tools such as Excel and programming. Thus, to accommodate the needs of today's undergraduate and to enhance the freshmen experience in engineering, this introductory engineering course is undergoing a paradigm shift towards challenge-based learning and problem- solving approaches. This new paradigm is currently being implemented in four sections of this course, with the remaining six sections serving as control.

The focus of the new paradigm is the approach to and process of engineering problem solving with and without the aid of computing tools. Students are presented with different types of discipline-specific engineering problems in each of the modules. Student progress is evaluated on the basis of the problem solving process rather than end-result. It should be noted that it is essential for engineering students to not just solve problems, but to solve problems efficiently. Thus in some cases, identical problems are presented across modules so the student can assimilate the appropriateness and thus selection of the tool for a given problem.

A survey and a pre-course content-based assessment were given at the start and end of the semester to both control and test sections. A sub-set of problems was used across both the control and test sections as homework problems for comparison of the two approaches.


In the past decade, the use of computers has exploded in all facets of life including education. With the increasing use of computing tools in engineering and engineering problem solving, many schools introduced engineering within the context of learning these computing tools for future learning. Thus, in many cases the first engineering course taken by students, typically in their freshman year, is an introductory course in various computing tools (software packages) useful in engineering education. These courses include an introduction to computers, networking, the

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

Mahadevan-Jansen, A. (2003, June), A Paradigm Shift In The Approach To Freshman Engineering Education Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12009

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