New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Institutions across the nation are making significant efforts to develop K-12 programs and summer camps to recruit more ethnic minorities into engineering to support the growing needs of industry for diversity in workforce. However, while a diverse freshman-engineering cohort is essential, it is even more important that schools provide students with adequate support to be successful in their freshman year and thus increase their chances to be retained and graduate with an engineering degree. In particular, first generation and low-income students may enter college without proper academic preparation with fundamentals in mathematics, which may lead to low academic performance during their first year in engineering and impact their retention in engineering. To address this issue, engineering schools are investing resources in developing and offering remediation programs to ensure underrepresented minority students acquire the necessary fundamentals to be successful in their first calculus, physics and engineering courses in college. In this large public institution, all incoming engineering freshmen are required to take a math placement exam, which determines if they are calculus ready for their first mathematics course.
This study is focused on sixty-six freshmen who scored very low on their math placement exam, earning a score even below the recommended level for even placement in pre-calculus. The same students were advised to enroll in a one-credit hour project-based course with focus on engineering projects for community service. The one-credit hour course engaged students in two major team projects to provide them an opportunity to experience the engineering design process and engineering tools. The first project was the Raptor Reloaded project, which involved 3D printing an assembly of a mechanical hand, assembling the parts, and submitting the finished hand to the sponsor organization, e-NABLE, to be delivered to a person with a need for hand. The second project focused on a project need identified by each student team with focus on an engineering project to serve the community around our campus. At the same time, the students were enrolled in an intensive four-credit hour engineering mathematics fundamentals course that met four days a week. The focus of the course was engineering math skills with an intent of having the students be calculus ready at the end of the semester. Topics covered included algebra and trigonometry skills necessary for success in a subsequent engineering calculus course.
The cohort consists of 44% Hispanic and African American students with 28% female participants. We expect that co-enrolling students in remedial math while also engaging in engineering projects will have a positive impact on their academic performance and persistence in engineering after the first semester and in subsequent semesters.
In this study, we will describe the courses, student experiences with each project, and student outcomes at the end of the semester with focus on grades, skills attainment, course placement in engineering, and retention in engineering for the spring semester. The findings of this study will provide further contributions to research on the retention of students who enter engineering requiring remediation in mathematics.
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