June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.92.1 - 26.92.11
A Project Based Learning Engineering Course for a Summer Bridge ProgramThe College of Engineering and Computer Science offers a six-week summer bridge programthat is open to all entering first-year students. Historically, underrepresented minority (URM)students, women and first generation students have been recruited for this program and givenscholarship support to attend. Compared to the entering first-year class, the summer bridgeprogram cohort typically has a significantly higher percentage of students who are at risk forattrition from Engineering and Computer Science. In 2013, a new project based learning (PBL)engineering course was developed with the goals of: 1) establishing meaningful faculty-studentinteractions during the program, 2) introducing first-year students to real-world engineeringprojects and problem solving, and 3) enhancing the students enthusiasm for engineering, criticalthinking skills, effective teamwork, and attitudes towards persistence in Engineering andComputer Science. The frequency and quality of faculty-student contact, both in and out of theclassroom, has been shown to impact student motivation and involvement  and is a strongpredictor of success for at-risk students from under-represented groups .The course has been taught the past two summers (2013 and 2014). The course ran for six weekseach year and met four days a week, for 75 minutes per class period. The first week of thecourse was used to introduce the students to each other, practice teamwork, and make studentsaware of college and university-wide resources to support their success. Weeks two through fivewere devoted to four weeklong projects from the disciplines of Electrical Engineering (TheVampire Power Diaries), Mechanical Engineering (Working Backwards: Reverse Engineering asa Design Tool), Civil Engineering (Bridging the Gap), and Biomedical Engineering(Reconstructing the Human Body). These projects were each designed and taught by fulltimefaculty members, with support from an undergraduate teaching assistant. The participatingfaculty were selected because of their expertise, experience, willingness to work with first yearstudents, and their openness and approachability. Students gave group presentations on theirprojects during the final week of the course.A total of 21 students enrolled in the course in 2013 and 24 students in 2014. Of these, 44%were women, 40% were URM, and 53% were first generation students. All students completedand passed the course. Students were surveyed at the beginning and at the end of the summerbridge program to assess the degree to which these projects impacted their interest inengineering, their confidence in studying engineering in college, their level of comfort ininteracting with faculty instructors, and their ability to work effectively in teams. Resultsshowed that 64% (2013) and 83% (2014) of the students agreed or strongly agreed that theprojects made them more interested in engineering; 74% (2013) and 85% (2014) of the studentsagreed or strongly agreed that the projects made them feel confident about studying engineeringin college; 92% (2013) and 85% (2014) of the students found the faculty instructors accessibleand felt comfortable asking questions in class; and 84% (2013) and 90% (2014) of the studentsreported that their projects taught them to work effectively in teams. In fall 2014, 18 of the 21students in the 2013 cohort were still enrolled in Engineering or Computer Science majors at theuniversity. This first year retention rate of 86% is comparable to the entire entering cohort of2013, despite the higher risk of attrition in this population of students.References1. Chickering, A., & Gamson, Z. (1995). The Seven Principles in Action: ImprovingUndergraduate Education. Anker Publishing Co.2. Levin, M., & Levin, J. (1991). A critical examination of academic retention programs for at-risk minority college students. Journal of College Student Development , 323-334.
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