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Applying Problem Solving Heuristics To A Freshman Engineering Course

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.201.1 - 6.201.13



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Paper Authors

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Shari Kimmel

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Fadi Deek

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Howard Kimmel

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

Session 2793

Applying Problem-Solving Heuristics to a Freshman Engineering Course

Shari J. Kimmel1, Fadi P. Deek2, Howard S. Kimmel2 1 Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College and Lehigh University 2 New Jersey Institute of Technology


Many students enter undergraduate engineering programs lacking basic problem solving skills. We have adapted the problem solving heuristics originally used in a computer science environment to an introductory engineering class to help freshman engineering students develop these skills. The introductory Engineering Design and Graphics course at Penn State - Berks Campus exposes students to conventional drafting techniques, computer graphics and engineering design.

The basic heuristic involves identifying the precise problem from a vague problem statement and then subdividing it into smaller tractable parts. Identifying the problem statement, analyzing possible solutions and presenting the final result are important aspects of the engineering design component. The solid modeling component of the course lends itself to giving students practice dividing a large problem into smaller segments for which a solution method can be more easily determined and tested. The problem solving exercises taught students to analyze the problem and think about the solution instead of rushing to implement an ill-considered solution. This assignment improved their performance compared to another section of the same course which did not include specialized problem solving activities. However, to properly interpret an unstructured problem statement, students would benefit from starting with a guided instructional approach.

The students’ perceptions about the value of this method vary. Some students think that many of these problems are too easy to make the extra work involved in a formal problem solving method worthwhile, but most students see the value of this formal method for solving complicated problems. A primary obstacle to implementing this method in the classroom is that students prefer to avoid the initial additional effort required by a formal problem solving strategy.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Kimmel, S., & Deek, F., & Kimmel, H. (2001, June), Applying Problem Solving Heuristics To A Freshman Engineering Course Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--8912

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