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An Institution-Wide Student Outcome for Engineering: Development, Implementation and Assessment.

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2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference


Corvallis, Oregon

Publication Date

March 20, 2019

Start Date

March 20, 2019

End Date

March 22, 2019

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Paper Authors


Michael Lawrence Anderson P.E. United States Air Force

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Lt Col Mike Anderson is an Associate Professor and Director of Capstone Programs, Department of Engineering Mechanics, US Air Force Academy. He has pursued research in engineering education for several years in the areas of curriculum design and assessment, capstone design experiences, innovative design methodologies, and enhancing student creativity. In addition, he pursues technical research in autonomous systems, design of terrestrial and aerial robots, flight control of Micro Air Vehicles (MAV), sports science and sports technology. Lt Col Anderson has worked as an F-16 flight control actuation systems engineer and as a Deputy Division Chief in the Air Force Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate where he led research in GPS-denied navigation for multi-agent autonomous systems. Lt Col Anderson is a registered Professional Engineer and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.

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Traci A. Sarmiento United States Air Force Academy

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Cory Cooper U.S. Air Force Academy


Donald William Rhymer United States Air Force

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Donald Rhymer is the Associate Dean for Research at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. He is a 1995 graduate of the academy with a bachelor's of science in engineering mechanics and holds both an M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has taught mechanical engineering for more than five years at the Air Force Academy and while his graduate research and teaching emphasis is in the mechanics of materials, he has just as high a passion for excellence in education. His wife Dawn is a 1997 graduate of the academy, and they raise five children. In his free time, Rhymer runs the falconry program at the Air Force Academy.

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The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado is an undergraduate-only military academy whose mission is to “educate, train, and inspire men and women to become leaders of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.” All Academy graduates enter active duty service, (notwithstanding a small percentage of foreign exchange officers) and the Air Force desires well-rounded officer-graduates with a more-homogeneous education than would be expected at an otherwise similar liberal university. As such, the Academy prescribes a large general education (or “core”) curriculum, of 29 academic courses and 93 semester hours1, compared to a typical GE load of 15 - 30 semester hours. This core includes a cross section of courses in the humanities, social sciences basic sciences and engineering. The requirement that all students complete a broad and lengthy core sequence in engineering is especially unique. Recently, nine all new, Academy-wide Institutional Outcomes were developed to define the desired characteristics of graduates, help drive curriculum design and facilitate assessment and accreditation2. Of interest here is the “Application of Engineering Methods” (AEM) outcome, which specifies that ALL Academy graduates are expected to: “…Recognize the engineering and technical challenges of the Air Force mission and the physical capabilities and limits within their assigned career fields and weapon systems. They need to not only be “operators,” but to become problem solvers that use engineering principles to devise enhanced capabilities essential to achieving and maintaining Air Force dominance in air, space, and cyberspace. Proficiencies are organized into two broad categories:  Fundamental Domain Knowledge (i.e., knowledge of basic engineering principles across a variety of physical domains….)  Problem-Solving Process (i.e., using a top-down, systematic problem-solving method…to address ill-defined problems….)” To ensure effective implementation of these new outcomes, the Academy established Outcome Teams, composed of faculty across the institution and appointed by the Academy’s Superintendent and Board of Visitors (equivalent to the University President and Regents/Chancellors). The authors of this presentation recently served as Outcome Team Lead and team members during the development of the AEM Outcome. This work documents this implementation process and first assessment cycle with lessons learned, benefits and future initiatives. The definition of the outcome enabled the team to re-align the 6 core engineering courses (in computer science, mechanical, aeronautical, electrical, astronautical and civil engineering) to create a more-cohesive curriculum that follows a development arc of increasing proficiency and challenge. In addition, the new outcome’s equal emphasis on Fundamental Domain Knowledge and the Problem-Solving Process spurred an attempt to re-balance certain engineering core courses toward engineering design and innovation. 1 2

Anderson, M. L., & Sarmiento, T. A., & Cooper, C., & Rhymer, D. W. (2019, March), An Institution-Wide Student Outcome for Engineering: Development, Implementation and Assessment. Paper presented at 2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference, Corvallis, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--31869

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