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Adding Mini Labs To Engr101, Tulane’s Freshman Intro To Engineering Course

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Unique Courses & Services for Freshmen

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.148.1 - 9.148.9



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Paper Authors

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Cedric Walker

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Carol Mullenax

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

Session 3453

Adding Mini-Labs to ENGR101, Tulane’s Freshman Intro to Engineering Course

Carol Mullenax, Cedric Walker Tulane University


As part of the effort to improve the freshman engineering experience for the 2003-04 academic year, labs were added to our required fall semester “introduction” course. The experiments were primarily developed and conducted by graduate students in each of Tulane’s five engineering departments.

The ultimate goal for these activities was three-fold: (1) get the freshmen into the research labs in small groups (2-3 students per session), (2) promote interaction with the graduate student population, and (3) enthuse the students about research and engineering. Although limited pay was available, the major plus for the instructors was the opportunity to create, lead, and modify (based on experience) a small teaching module. Students rated the lab sessions and could post comments visible both to the instructors and other students. Students used these ratings to help decide which labs in which to enroll.

Several aspects of this program differed from standard lab courses. Through an innovative course management website, instructors and students both had unprecedented scheduling flexibility both in the selection and attendance of lab sessions. There was typically great personal investment of the graduate student instructors in their lab modules. The targeted scope for the mini-labs was limited in comparison to standard labs. The breadth of topics was large; the 5 engineering departments offered 27 different topics with enough sessions to offer 496 seats, enough for each of the 218 students to participate in two labs.

There were some major hurdles to overcome in starting up this program. We encountered factors including (1) bias against the presence of undergraduate students (especially freshmen) in the research labs, (2) perceived overwhelming demands on faculty or graduate student time with no “obvious” payoff, and (3) the assertion that we should not “cater” to our Freshmen. Because initial appeals to graduate students did not fully populate all needed labs, most department chairs eventually mandated that mini-labs be generated and conducted by their personnel.

Student response to this program was favorable. For next year, we hope to offer additional topics and sessions so that each student can participate in three mini-labs.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Walker, C., & Mullenax, C. (2004, June), Adding Mini Labs To Engr101, Tulane’s Freshman Intro To Engineering Course Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13623

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