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A Project-based Learning Alternative for First-year Engineering Students

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Active and Cooperative Learning in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Werner Creixell Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Werner Creixell obtained his Electronic Engineering diploma and a master degree in Telecommunications and Computer Systems from Federico Santa María University in 1997 and 2002 respectively. He got his doctoral degree in Information Science and Technology from the University of Tokyo in 2006. Currently, he is visiting assistant professor at Texas A&M University and faculty at Electronic Engineering Department of Santa Maria University, he is also visiting researcher at the Center for Spatial Information Science (CSIS) at the University of Tokyo and active collaborator of the Group of Complex System at Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain. His main research interests are Machine Learning, Engineering Education, and Complex Networks.

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Rachelle M. Pedersen Texas A&M University

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Rachelle Pedersen is a first-year Ph.D. student pursuing a degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Engineering Education at Texas A&M University. Her undergraduate degree is in Engineering Science with a concentration in Technology Education. She previously taught for 5 years in Connecticut at a high school teaching technology education, including robotics, video production, and AP Computer Science.

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Susan Niki Ritchey Texas A&M University

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Dr. S. Niki Ritchey is an Associate Professor of Practice at Texas A&M University. She earned BS and MS degrees in Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M University and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University. She worked as a Research Engineering for Heat Transfer Research, Inc. conducting experimental research on condensation in heat exchangers. She currently teaches students how to program using Python in the first year engineering program.

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Some say engineers are like dogs: if you throw them a bone they will go and fetch it. This crude analogy reflects some of the strong qualities of engineers, like problem-solving (fetching the bone), but it also reflects the fact that someone else has to not only throw them the bone, but must also choose which bone to throw. Educational techniques and courses for improving initiative, curiosity, creativity, and grit in engineers are becoming increasingly important to prepare them for the dynamic working environment they will find after graduation. In this work in progress, we expose the results of a freshman course that has been organized as a project-based learning (PBL) class. It is different from the traditional PBL approach by the fact that the students are required to propose their own projects. Each team, typically four students, receives a Raspberry-Pi and/or a NodeMCU for prototyping their ideas. The goal is to propose a project with an innovative solution. First year students usually, but not always, lack the skills needed to create their own solutions from scratch. However, they can, and are encouraged to, use the vast amount of resources available on the internet and adapt them to fit their needs. The results of this experience are evaluated by surveys and contrasted with control groups taking the same course in a traditional setting. This new PBL approach encourages students to think critically and creatively while gaining experience defining and solving a real engineering project

Creixell, W., & Pedersen, R. M., & Ritchey, S. N. (2020, June), A Project-based Learning Alternative for First-year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34035

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