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An Update: The Engagement and Retention of Electrical Engineering Students with a First Semester Freshman Experience Course

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Recruitment, Retention and First-year Programs in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.187.1 - 23.187.19

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Paper Authors


Hector A. Ochoa The University of Texas at Tyler

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Dr. Ochoa received his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in 2007, his M.S. degree in physics from UTEP in 2003, and his B.S. in physics from the University of Guadalajara (U de G), Mexico in 2001. He is a member of the IEEE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), and the order of the engineer. He also serves as the faculty advisor to the IEEE student chapter and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) at the University of Texas at Tyler. Dr. Ochoa is an electrical engineer with roughly seven years of experience spanning subjects as diverse as analysis of radar signals using Fourier and relativistic approaches; application of compressive sensing in chaotic radars; analysis of induced currents on a perfect electric conductor using the current tensor; and the analysis of large time-bandwidth product radar signals when high-velocity targets are considered. Dr. Ochoa has published a total of four conference papers in the field of engineering education. Two of the papers discussed the development of a freshmen course in electrical engineering to improve retention. Another paper is related to the development of an online graduate course in Random Process. And the last paper focuses on the development of an online course in Linear Circuit Analysis for Electrical Engineering Student.

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Mukul Shirvaikar University of Texas at Tyler

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Dr. Mukul Shirvaikar is the Chair and Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Texas at Tyler, where he develops curriculum and laboratories in computer engineering. Prior to this he worked at Texas Instruments specializing in real time imaging systems. Dr. Shirvaikar graduated with his doctorate from the University of Tennessee, a M.S. degree from the University of Maine, and a Bachelor's degree from Banaras Hindu University, India. His current research interests include real time imaging and engineering education.

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An Update: The Engagement and Retention of Electrical Engineering Students with a First Semester Freshman Experience CourseFreshman retention has been a critical issue for engineering programs over the last decade.Universities have implemented many different approaches to improve freshman retentionincluding: creating general freshman courses to give early hands-on experience to the students1-4,utilizing student feedback to design courses5, and moving the ownership and maintenance oflaboratory equipment from the university to the students6. In the fall semester of 2009, theElectrical Engineering program at __________ took the initiative of creating and offering a firstsemester freshman experience course aimed at improving freshman retention. The rationale forcreating this course was based on student and faculty feedback, and comments provided bygraduating seniors during their senior exit interview. A number of students also expressed theirconcern about how late the electrical engineering laboratory experience is in the curriculum. Thedepartmental faculty took the decision to help electrical engineering students by developing acourse specially designed for their freshman year entitled “Engineering The Future: Electricaland Digital Concepts”. The only preparation expected from the students is high school algebra.The purpose of the course is to introduce the students to the different areas of ElectricalEngineering such as: History of Electrical Engineering, Electrical Concepts and Components,Digital Systems, Communications Systems, Electronics, Power Systems and ComputerEngineering. The students are also exposed to the National Electric Code and to the toolscommonly used by electrical engineering students like: oscilloscopes, multimeters, functionsgenerators, PSpice and MATLAB. Finally, to complement the freshman experience, practicingelectrical engineers are invited to talk about their experiences and a module on engineering yourcareer was introduced by design. The students are also expected to attend IEEE meetings, andstudy the IEEE Code of Ethics. The intention of the course is to provide the students with ahealthy exposure to professional practice and real projects in the different areas of electricalengineering7.Since then significant changes have been made to this course in order to make it more enjoyableand effective in retaining students. Some of these changes include the establishment of adepartmental template used to prepare the materials that are distributed to the students, theinclusion of virtual instruments such as the NI myDAQ and Labview, and the replacement ofPSpice with NI Multisim and Ultiboard. The last two software utilities have made the fabricationof the PCBs easier for the students and faculty. Furthermore, the students are required to use theNI myDAQ in some of their laboratories and in the final project which some of them alsoinclude the use of Labview.This paper will present the data collected as a part of the course offering over four academicyears, specifically split into two analysis categories. The first part of the data analysis will focuson the effect of the course on student retention, extracted from the freshman cohorts. The secondpart of the data analysis will focus on student surveys performed at the end of the semester. Thissurvey was designed to measure vital components of overall course effectiveness with finergranularity, including students understanding of topics such as the role of electrical engineersand their impact on society.References[1] H. Knickle, “Foundations of Engineering a First Year Course”, Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference, Washington, DC 1996.[2] J. W. Pierre, F. K. Tuffner, “A One-Credit Hands-On Introductory Course In Electrical and Computer Engineering Using a Variety of Topics Modules”, IEEE Transactions on Education, vol. 52, No. 2, May 2009.[3] Ronald Roth, “Improving Freshman Retention Through an Introduction to Engineering Design Course”, Proceedings of the ASEE Annual, 2001, Albuquerque, NM 2001.[4] Ruben Rojas-Oviedo, Dr. X. Cathy Qian, “Improving Retention of Undergraduate Students in Engineering through Freshman Courses”, Proceedings of the ASEE Annual, Montréal, Quebec, Canada 2002.[5] M. R. Anderson-Rowland, “Understanding Freshman Engineering Students Retention through a Survey”, Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference, Milwaukee, WI, 1997.[6] D. Hall, H. Hegab, and J. Nelson, “Living with the Lab – Freshman Curriculum to Boost Hands-on Learning, Student Confidence and Innovation”, 38th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Saratoga Springs, NY, 2008.[7] Ochoa, Hector; Mukul, V. Shirvaikar, “The Engagement and Retention of Electrical Engineering Students with a First Semester Freshman Experience Course,” The 118th ASEE Annual Conference, Vancouver, Canada, June, 2011.

Ochoa, H. A., & Shirvaikar, M. (2013, June), An Update: The Engagement and Retention of Electrical Engineering Students with a First Semester Freshman Experience Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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