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Assessing a Summer Engineering Math and Projects Bootcamp to Improve Retention and Graduation Rates in Engineering and Computer Science

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Retention & Bridge Programs #2

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

17

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34172

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34172

Download Count

49

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Paper Authors

biography

Zahrasadat Alavi California State University, Chico

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Dr. Zahrasadat Alavi, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at California State University Chico, received her PhD in Electrical Engineering from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in May 2015. She received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. from Amirkabir University (Polytechnic of Tehran) with honors in 2007 and 2009 respectively, and another Master of Science from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) in Electrical Engineering in 2012. She was an Assistant Professor at the Electrical and Instrumentation Department of Los Medanos College during 2016-2017 academic year. She was an Adjunct Faculty at San Francisco State University and Diablo Valley College during 2015-2016 academic year, and an instructor at UWM from January 2014 until May 2015. She is the principal investigator on several grants such as National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation for the acquisition of FTIR Spectroscopic Imaging system, Student Success Grant, and CSU Chico Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity. She is also a co- principal investigator on an NSF-MRI Grant for acquisition of a Raman Spectrometer and a co- Investigator on an Office of Naval Research Grant.

She is currently the director of Alavi FTIR Spectroscopic Imaging Lab (AFISIL) and supervises multiple undergraduate students in their research. Her research interests includes characterization of biological samples by employing FTIR Spectroscopic Imaging techniques and developing novel digital image processing and analysis algorithms to process the collected FTIR-spectro-microscopic data. Additionally, Dr. Alavi is a member of IEEE, ASEE and she has been an active member of McLeod Institute of Simulation Science. Dr. Alavi pursues research in advanced control systems and simulation. Additionally, she conducts research in promoting electrical engineering undergraduate education and is the recipient of the best paper award in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Division of American Society of Engineering Education.

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Kathleen Meehan California State University, Chico

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Kathleen Meehan earned her B.S. in electrical engineering from Manhattan College and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. After graduation, she worked at Lytel, Inc., Polaroid Corporation, and Biocontrol Technology. She moved into academia full-time in 1997 and worked at the University of Denver, West Virginia University, and Virginia Tech. From 2013 to 2017, she was the director of the Electronics and Electrical Engineering program at University of Glasgow-University of Electronic Science and Technology of China. Dr. Meehan became chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the California State University, Chico in 2017. She is actively involved in the development of mobile hands-on pedagogy as well as research on other topics in STEM education, the synthesis and characterization of nanoscale materials, and fermentation processes.

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Kevin Buffardi California State University, Chico

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Dr. Buffardi is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at California State University, Chico. After gaining industry experience as a specialist in usability and human factors engineering, he earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Virginia Tech. His research concentrates on software engineering education, software testing, and eLearning tools.

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Webster R. Johnson California State University, Chico

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Dr. W.R. Johnson has been a researcher and university professor for the past four decades. He is currently a lecturer at California State University at Chico, lecturing in CAD, thermodynamics, numerical methods, material science and testing, dynamics, and heat transfer.

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biography

Joseph Greene California State University, Chico

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Dr. Joe Greene is a professor in the Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and Sustainable Manufacturing Department at California State University, Chico. He received a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 1993 from the University of Michigan. Joe began teaching at California State University, Chico in 1998 after a 14-year career with General Motors Corporation in Detroit, Michigan. His research interests include biobased and biodegradable polymers, recycled plastics, marine biodegradation testing, and anaerobic digestion.

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Abstract

This complete Evidence-Based Practice paper discusses the efforts made to increase four-year and six-year graduation rates of students who declare a major in one of the engineering or computer science programs upon matriculating at California State University, Chico (CSU Chico). The four-year and six-year rates in these programs (~12% and 56%, respectively) are well below the University’s average graduation rates; it is critical that they increase to meet CSU Chico’s goals for graduation rates of 41% and 74%, respectively. The authors created a three-week summer bootcamp to strengthen student understanding of the fundamentals of mathematics and critical thinking as applied in these disciplines through a series of hands-on projects. Expected project outcomes were 1) an improvement in students’ math skills and 2) to enable students to make better informed choices for their major in their first year at CSU Chico. The bootcamp recruited matriculating students in engineering and computer science from underrepresented minorities and first-generation and low-income populations. The core of the bootcamp curriculum was an intensive math program designed to stimulate deeper understanding of algebra and trigonometry and practical problem-solving skills. The curriculum also included Problem-Based Learning (PBL) modules with projects that applied concepts from computer science and mechanical, mechatronic, computer, and electrical engineering. The first objective is particularly impactful because of the pre-requisite chains in most of our engineering (ENGR) and computer science (CS) curricula. A one-semester delay in graduation occurs when a student is enrolled in MATH 119 Precalculus rather than MATH 120 Analytic Geometry and Calculus. Further delays occur when the student enrolls, instead, in College Algebra or Trigonometry. Data from Spring 2019 revealed failure rates of 15% for Trigonometry, 24% for Precalculus, and 37% for Analytic Geometry and Calculus. Similar percentages of students withdrew from each course. Clearly, failure to complete math courses is a significant barrier to graduation when ENGR and CS students retake one or more math courses. Many incoming ENGR and CS students have had limited exposure to these disciplines. Bootcamp participants gained this experience during the PBL projects, addressing the project’s second goal. Early positive reinforcement that a student’s choice of major was correct should reduce the likelihood that the student will change majors, which can extend the time to graduation. Results of pre- and post-bootcamp surveys demonstrated improved self-confidence regarding skills important to their majors, particularly in their ability to learn and apply math concepts, as well as an increased sense of belonging in the major. The authors also assessed the ALEKS mathematics learning tool as a means to improve students’ math skills. Evaluation of the impact that PBL modules had in helping students recognize the importance and application of mathematics in their chosen fields and the faculty reflections on the bootcamp are still in progress. Data on participants’ success in Fall 2019 math courses and retention in their majors will be presented. Open-ended responses in the survey provided formative evaluation of the bootcamp and will be used to improve the curriculum. Finally, steps planned to further support the bootcamp cohort’s progress towards graduation will be described.

Alavi, Z., & Meehan, K., & Buffardi, K., & Johnson, W. R., & Greene, J. (2020, June), Assessing a Summer Engineering Math and Projects Bootcamp to Improve Retention and Graduation Rates in Engineering and Computer Science Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34172

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