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An Information Resource Web Page For A Freshman Problem Based Learning Engineering Course

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.83.1 - 3.83.12



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Paper Authors

author page

Carolyn L. Dull

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A. George Havener

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

Session 1253


A. George Havener and Carolyn L. Dull USAF Academy, Colorado Springs, CO 80840


An information resource web-page has been constructed to support an experimental freshman engineering course at the USAF Academy (USAFA)1,2. The intent of the course is to use Problem Based Learning (PBL)3 to begin developing problem solving skills while concurrently introducing engineering fundamentals to cadets. The course does not have a textbook or a syllabus. Instead, the cadets are given learning objectives, a tasking (to develop a plan for a manned research mission to Mars)1, and access to an information resource containing data and references on engineering, Mars, and problem solving skills and tools. A series of mini-workshops and the information resource are used to initiate the problem solving skills-development. Initially, the information resource was a collection of computer folders. Before long, however, the accumulation of information in the folders made them hard to use, and during computer downtimes, they were inaccessible.

To improve the utility of the information resource, a web-page has been created. The Homepage is shown in Fig. 1. Designed as a network of concept maps containing hyperlinks to information categories, finding specific information has become a relatively easy and fun exercise for the cadets. Analogous to the Help function found in many software applications, Search nodes on the maps allow students to enter descriptive words for specific information sought. For instance, entering “orbits” connects the students to information on the fundamentals of orbital mechanics. If the information sought is not available, or if a hyperlink does not currently exist, the student is invited to post comments on the Bulletin Board. As well as being an information repository for the students, entries on the bulletin board are reviewed and responded to by the course director. The information resource web-page is new and dynamic, and upgrades are still being made.


Engineering 110Z (Engr-110Z), the experimental freshman engineering course mentioned above, has been developed at USAFA to meet the educational outcomes4 shown in Table 1. Started in 1995, this academic experiment has spanned three years. The pedagogy and process are presented elsewhere1,2, so only the key elements are presented as background for the information resource web-page.

The USAFA Core - USAFA is a military service academy offering the Bachelor of Science degree. Within the BS curriculum, cadets specialize in one of 19 discipline-

Dull, C. L., & Havener, A. G. (1998, June), An Information Resource Web Page For A Freshman Problem Based Learning Engineering Course Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--7191

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