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A Project Oriented Introduction To Engineering Course

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.84.1 - 6.84.7

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Kenneth Reardon

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

Session 3553

A Project-Oriented Introduction to Engineering Course Kenneth F. Reardon Department of Chemical and Bioresource Engineering Colorado State University


This paper describes an introductory engineering course taught to first year students in chemical, environmental, and bioresource (agricultural) engineering at Colorado State University. In this lecture-laboratory course, a variety of "hard" (technical) and "soft" engineering subjects are put into practice in a group design project, with the overall goal of providing students with a sense of the engineering field while being both challenging and fun. Details of the lecture topics and design project (construction and testing of a solar water heater) are provided in this paper, as are comments on the outcomes of the course. Overall, this integrated lecture-laboratory course appears to meet all of our objectives for an introductory course in engineering, and student feedback on this course has been very positive.

1. Introduction

When asked their objectives for a first-semester introduction to engineering course, our students overwhelmingly list "learn about engineering as a career" as their top choice, with "learn about my major" typically the second-ranked objective. Unfortunately, they lack the technical, computational, and problem-solving skills needed to take the suite of courses that would allow them to truly understand either. In our experience, asking engineering students to wait until their second year to learn about their major can lead to frustration with difficult chemistry, math, and physics courses that seem to have no relevance to engineering.

Many students are also frustrated with introduction to engineering courses that avoid calculations and technical topics. While these courses can convey important topics such as creativity, problem-solving methods, the engineering design process, and/or technical communication skills, students usually do not perceive the connections between these topics and the foundation courses (e.g., physics) with which they may be struggling. Furthermore, they may not feel as compelled to work on assignments for such a "soft" class when faced with a heavy load of computational homework.

To provide first-year students with an overview of engineering that avoids some of these pitfalls, we have developed a lecture-laboratory course entitled "Strategies of Engineering Design" in which lecture topics on a variety of "hard" (technical) and "soft" engineering subjects are put into practice in a group design project. The overall goal was to present the students with a course that provides them with a sense of the engineering field while being both challenging and fun.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Reardon, K. (2001, June), A Project Oriented Introduction To Engineering Course Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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