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An Innovative Mechanism to Establish Positive Association within the First Year of Civil Engineering Curriculum

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

First-Year Activities and Peer Review Strategies in Civil Engineering

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.180.1 - 22.180.9



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Paper Authors


Megan L. Hart Saint Louis University, Parks College of Engineering

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Dr. Hart is an assistant professor in the department of Civil Engineering at Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO. Dr. Hart worked professionally as an environmental engineer in the areas of stormwater, wastewater and drinking water prior to joining St. Louis University. Her area of applied laboratory expertise is stormwater, geotechnics, membrane design, shallow groundwater and structural interactions including remediation, and structures with unsaturated soil interactions. Her pedagogical pursuits include the first year experience for engineers and STEM outreach in early education.

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An Innovative Project Approach to Positive Association within the First Year of Civil Engineering Curriculum Megan L. HartRetention of students after the initial year of class work is a major issue facing engineering programstoday. The typical approach has been to create a common freshman or first year experience that facultyor administrators have predetermined to be positive. This technique has been criticized as lacking depthor breadth of knowledge, garnering poor retention of knowledge in students, and generally failing tocreate a positive enough association to thwart the attrition of students to other majors. The ubiquitousprogression of technical classes which engineering students march through, coupled with the generaldisregard of American students towards math, science and technology appears to create a mindset instudents that is quite difficult to change. Calls have been made for transformation in curriculum, bothfundamental and finite although these changes garner limited returns on investment.The approach used in this study was to utilize the technical and social tools which students routinelyemploy in their daily life in a semester-long, group based project with the intent to gauge associationwith civil engineering in students. Groups of three students were given a HD video camera and assignedthe topic of “Civil Engineering in Everyday Life.” The assignment was twofold: initially students were tofind and document a piece of infrastructure that influenced, either positively or negatively, their lives.Secondly, students were to create or design an improvement upon the component of infrastructurewhich they chose. Students submitted a memo documenting the topic of their study, along with atimeline for work completion, and worked towards refinement of the chosen topic. Students wereencouraged to use Facebook and Twitter to produce progress reports and as a project managementtool, as well as to seek advice from other groups or the faculty mentor.Initial engagement in civil engineering was measured with a survey and reflection prior to introductionof the assignment in class. At the end of the semester students viewed other groups’ projects and thevideos were placed on YouTube and the department webpage as marketing materials. Studentassociation with civil engineering was then measured at the end of the semester and compared toresults from civil engineering students enrolled in a common first year Freshman Engineering course.Results indicate a more positive association with civil engineering, and with engineering in general instudents who participated in the video projects and separated civil engineering freshman course thanthose who were enrolled in a more traditionally structured course. Faculty effort expended wassubstantially greater for preparation and continued engagement than the traditional course.

Hart, M. L. (2011, June), An Innovative Mechanism to Establish Positive Association within the First Year of Civil Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17461

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