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An Analysis of First-Year Students’ Changing Perceptions of Engineering Design and Practice

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.150.1 - 24.150.9

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Paper Authors


Ryan Fries Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

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Ryan Fries is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

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Ryan W. Krauss Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

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Dr. Krauss received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech in 2006. His research interests include modeling and control design for flexible robots, feedback control, and microcontroller-based implementation of feedback control systems. In addition to the freshmen introduction to engineering design course, he has taught courses in mechatronics, controls, vibrations, dynamics and robotics as well as senior design.

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A vast body of literature is available to guide freshman engineering introductory courses. Thispaper builds on three key pillars within the literature that focus on 1) project-oriented learning, 2)team-based learning, and 3) freshman design experiences. Design experiences at the freshmanand sophomore level can help increase retention rates for engineering students and help studentsbetter appreciate what engineers actually do. These courses and experiences can also form acornerstone for the students’ learning and motivate students to learn engineering analysistechniques.The objective of the study was to determine the impacts of combining several best practices.Although each of these practices had been validated independently, the combinatory effects havenot been studied. The study herein evaluated approximately 75 students in an introductoryengineering problem solving courses during the fall 2012 semester.The methods included student survey data, test performance, and a text analysis of before andafter student writing. The student surveys were collected during the first day of class andfocused on measuring student’s definitions of 1) what an engineering does and 2) what is theengineering design process. Test performance data was measured on the final exam, based onstudent descriptions of these same two definitions. The responses to all questions were typedand text analysis software was used to evaluate the trends in student responses.As expected, students’ definitions improved in accuracy, but the most important findings relatedto which misconceptions were being corrected. The study found that as students refined theirdefinition of an engineer, they increased their use of terms such as product (+350%), problem(+315%), and efficient (300%); while reducing their use of build (-74%) and structure (-67%).The text analysis also revealed that student definitions of the engineering design processincreased their use of the term brainstorming by an astonishing 2500%.

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