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An Assessment Of The Impact Of Exploring Engineering Through An Experiential Learning Course On Student Attraction And Retention

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Recruitment and Retention

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.154.1 - 10.154.6

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Paper Authors

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Julio Urbina

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Hirak Patangia

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

An Assessment of the Impact of Exploring Engineering Through An Experiential Learning Course on Student Attraction and Retention

Julio Urbina and Hirak Patangia Donaghey College of Information Science & Systems Engineering University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Abstract

With funding from National Science Foundation, a project-based experiential course has been introduced at the freshman level to acquaint students with the engineering field, and to attract students into engineering technology from the general pool of undeclared majors at the university. The course also gives the student a head start for success in courses that come later in the curriculum with the expectation that early exposure to various topics in engineering will lead to improved student success and retention. The course has a heavy emphasis on laboratory activities with an equally strong focus on ‘just-in-time’ theory. The learning platform of the course is a magnetic ball levitator, and the course prepares the students to be able to design and construct the levitator system by the end of the semester. The engineering topics have been selected in a way that they are central to accomplishing the project goal, and the laboratory exercises provide them with the hands-on experience necessary to complete the project.

The course has been offered six times so far, and data gathered through course evaluations suggest that it has been a successful course in preparing and exposing students to the field of engineering. Eighty nine percent of the students have indicated that the course ‘enhanced their interest in engineering’. The paper presents a preliminary follow-up of our experience with the course and an analysis of data pertaining to student satisfaction and their retention.


Engineering enrollment has seen a steady decline since its peak of 441,000 students in 1983. While students across the globe are competing to enter into engineering schools, only 2% out of four million high school graduates will enter engineering in US. Such a poor percentage is unacceptable at a time of new economy when technological innovation is central to wealth creation and long-term economic growth. Post ‘nine eleven’ era demands that more American citizens are attracted to STEM education to insure safety and security of the nation. For high school students to be motivated to enter engineering, the teaching and content of high school mathematics must be refocused. One approach to mitigate this situation is to involve high school mathematics and science teachers in engineering education with the goal that they will be able to use engineering applications in their mathematics curriculum to motivate students into the field of engineering and technology.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) received a NSF planning grant under Bridges for Engineering Education (BEE) Program in 2002 through a collaborative effort between the College of Information Science and Systems Engineering, and the College of Education. The focus of the BEE grant program is to bring together faculties of engineering and education with a view to improving engineering content in K-12 education and also support engineering faculty with educational research innovations in pedagogy. The objective of the UALR BEE grant is to design, develop, and refine a series of ‘thematic’ engineering courses to bring engineering education to pre-college educators, education majors, high school students, and to any other university student who wants to explore engineering as a career path or enhance technological literacy. Educational research has proven that a rich learning environment contributes tremendously toward improvement in learning achievements and also attitudes toward studies [1]. Such an environment is provided through project based learning [2]. It has been further noted that

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education

Urbina, J., & Patangia, H. (2005, June), An Assessment Of The Impact Of Exploring Engineering Through An Experiential Learning Course On Student Attraction And Retention Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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