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An Introduction to Engineering Supplemental Course for Students Underprepared to Enter Calculus

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First Year Programs Division Poster Session: The Best Place to Really Talk about First-Year Education

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.199.1 - 26.199.15



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Paper Authors


Denise H Bauer University of Idaho, Moscow

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Denise H. Bauer is working on improving the student experience in the first two years in the College of Engineering. She has developed a new Introduction to Engineering course, as well as conducted student focus groups to get their opinion early in the process. Her main research area is Human Factors and Ergonomics, which she uses to help design classroom environments considering both student and instructor needs.

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An Introduction to Engineering Course for Students Underprepared to Enter CalculusEach year, approximately 42% of the entering first-year engineering students at a small, rural,public inland-Pacific Northwest institution are considered underprepared in math. As such, thestudents must start at least one level behind in Pre-Calculus, which is about 95% online workconducted at each student’s own pace on a weekly basis (there are weekly deadlines but theymay work ahead). In addition to Pre-Calculus, these students usually must enroll inTrigonometry. As all the work for Trigonometry is online, many of the students struggle keepingup with work in both online classes due to adjusting to college and being away from home whilefiguring out the online math system when they still have not developed their time managementskills. In addition, many of the students are not enrolled in any course in the College ofEngineering since the first-year engineering curriculum consists of major-specific introductorycourses with no general course for those that may be undecided or underprepared in math.Specifically, students interested in Mechanical Engineering (the largest engineering major)cannot take the introductory course until they are enrolled in Calculus, all those in ElectricalEngineering cannot take an introductory course until the Spring, and those that are undeclared donot have a general introductory course to learn about all the different majors. The lack of ageneral introductory course means that these underprepared students that may need a little moreguidance are left to fend for themselves the first semester without much contact (if any) with theCollege of Engineering. Faculty and Student Services staff have witnessed that students whostruggle in these two classes are those that many times leave engineering although they may becapable or continue to struggle in subsequent math courses.Based on other successful programs at the school outside of the College of Engineering and atother institutions, an Introduction to Engineering class was developed for these students thatcome in needing to take Pre-Calculus. Based on Raymond Landis’ “Studying Engineering” bookand his research on successful introductory course material, the course not only providesadditional guidance in Pre-Calculus, but also introduces the students to various fields ofengineering, resources available across campus and in the college, and, most importantly, otherengineering students. The 34 students enrolled in the course are receiving “inside information”on how to succeed in their engineering studies, set up a meaningful schedule to manage theirtime, navigate the educational system, and take advantage of the resources available to them(instructors/professors). They have already participated in an engineering seminar series thatoffered information on all the engineering majors in the college and tips for scholarships, writingresumes, and studying abroad; an engineering photo scavenger hunt where they got points forthings such as a picture with the Dean; a reverse engineering project on an item of their choice;and working on learning the names of every other student in their class. In the remainder of thesemester, the students will conduct an in-depth analysis of their growth during their firstsemester as well as complete an engineering design project in teams.As a goal of this class is to help retain the students that have a great affinity for engineering, atthe conclusion of the semester, data will be collected on the students in the class as well as thecorresponding cohort that did not take the course (course was voluntary enrollment). This datawill be used to examine their success in the first semester, the percent that remained inengineering, their success in their math course(s), and their overall experience as a first-yearengineering college student. The end of the first semester will be the first set of data collected ina longitudinal study to include student surveys and interviews, performance metrics insubsequent courses, retention rates, graduation rates, and faculty feedback. In addition to the datadescribed above, each student in the course set their own goal in terms of GPA for the semesterand each class (two classes this semester) set a class goal for GPA. These goals will not be useddirectly in the data analysis, but the students themselves will be rewarded if they meet (orexceed) them. As an example, one class has a goal of a 3.14 GPA average and wanted a pi(e)party as an award.Although the data is not available presently, a preliminary analysis of the two cohorts will bepresented in the paper. Activities that are planned in the Spring semester to keep the studentsconnected and involved will also be finalized and described in the paper. Some of those activitiesalready being considered are an internship fair/seminar (student requested), participation in thefinal engineering project showcase (their final projects), a group field trip, and finalizing theprogram name (determined mainly by the students).

Bauer, D. H. (2015, June), An Introduction to Engineering Supplemental Course for Students Underprepared to Enter Calculus Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23538

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