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A Pre-Baccalaureate Engineering Course for the Road Ahead

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ASEE 2021 Gulf-Southwest Annual Conference


Waco, Texas

Publication Date

March 24, 2021

Start Date

March 24, 2021

End Date

March 26, 2021

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Randy Hugh Brooks Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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After 23 years in Telecom starting with building LD, internet, and email platforms and networks, I observed that the front line personnel that I was hiring didn’t have what I considered to be skills that they should be bringing to the table. I began investigating why, and that led me to high school.

Alas, I began my journey in Education in 2010 inhabiting the classrooms of Lovejoy High School, where my two daughters attended.

I redubbed my PreCalculus course as Problem-Solving with Brooks and was also afforded the opportunity to lead an impactul Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Principles of Engineering (PoE) course which is a project-based learning survey of the engineering discipline.

Since the Summer of 2015 I have been privileged to work with the Texas A and M Sketch Recognition Lab (TAMU SRL) to evaluate a couple of online tutorial tools (Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS)) currently under development, Mechanix and Sketchtivity, that provide immediate constructive feedback to the students and student-level metrics to the instructors. I presented on this work at the state and national PLTW Conventions and at CPTTE in 2016.

I also spent 5 semesters beginning the Fall of 2015 taking online courses learning how to construct and deliver online courses. This resulted in a MSEd from Purdue University in Learning Design and Technology (LDT).

This widely varied background prepared me well for my next big adventure. Beginning in August 2018 I became the Texas A and M Professor of Practice for the Texas A and M Engineering Academy at Blinn College in Brenham. TAMU Engineering Academies are an innovative approach to providing the planet with more Aggie Engineers.

I am a technology learner and and engaged member of the TAMU IEEI (Institute for Engineering Education and Innovation).

My foundations were set by an upbringing on the family ranch near Joshua, Texas and 4 memorable years at Texas A and M where I met my wife, I led Bugle Rank #7 in the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band (Class of ’86 Whoop!), and dove into Telecom Engineering. Once in Telecom, my learning continued at MCI, Vartec, and Charter.

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A Pre-Baccalaureate Engineering Course for the Road Ahead

This paper explores what elements and concepts should be included in a pre-college, widely available digital course designed to better guide, inform, and prepare high school students interested in pursuing a career in engineering. The purpose is to provide a digital tool for high school students and their advising network to gain a better understanding of what an engineering education and career entails.

Impetus for this study are literature-based studies, peer and performance-evaluating administration observations, and my personal experiences regarding the chasm existing between (1) the understanding of engineering and the supporting knowledge and skills of the typical college of engineering-bound high school student, and (2) the level of knowledge and skill sets expected to exist in first-year college of engineering students by the college of engineering first-year professors.

My unique perspective of hiring recent college graduates for roles in Telecom for 23 years, teaching precalculus and PLTW (Project Lead the Way) engineering courses in high school for 8 years, and now instructing first-year and second-year students at a large southwestern university, has afforded me diverse front-line experiences involving a wide range of instructional differentiation practices required to address the varying levels of college of engineering preparation observed in a wide array of engineering-bound students.

The challenge to be addressed with this course is that each semester I observe that the majority of my students share that their parents, a neighbor, family members, or guidance counselors noted that they were good at math and/or science, and advised that they should study engineering, so that is why they are in my classroom.

The primary goal of the course would be to assist high school students with making a more informed decision regarding selecting to pursue engineering as a profession. A strong secondary benefit is potential concurrent education of high school student advising networks regarding what is involved in a career as a professional engineer.

Many students select engineering following counselor guidance referencing significant math and science capabilities, yet the students often do not fully understand the myriad opportunities and rigorous cognitive demands that populate their chosen path. Consequently, many first-year college engineering programs include weekly career opportunity explorations as part of their coursework to introduce the incoming freshmen to the many engineering options. Moving this student learning to a pre-college course would provide students with more clarity of direction, and reduce the first semester learning load.

Benefits of student completion of this course will be increased retention, improved student performance, and a widely available digital course that will prove most beneficial to the underserved populations with limited access to much of the knowledge and skills incorporated into this pre-college course.

This paper will address literature on the topic and provide a proposed framework of concepts to be addressed in the course.

Brooks, R. H. (2021, March), A Pre-Baccalaureate Engineering Course for the Road Ahead Paper presented at ASEE 2021 Gulf-Southwest Annual Conference, Waco, Texas.

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