June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Engineering Physics & Physics
14.247.1 - 14.247.6
Assessing Student Attitudes and Interest in Physics and Engineering as a Result of the Physics of Cell Phones and Wireless Communications Curriculum
For over twenty years the College of Engineering & Science at the University of Detroit Mercy has offered a summer out-reach program for local high school students. The UNinitiates Introduction to Engineering (UNITE) program is designed to resemble a university freshman engineering curriculum. The goal is to introduce students to the subjects and skills necessary to succeed as an engineering student. Classes involve hands-on activities emphasizing team work. Students take five classes daily - Persuasive Speaking, Computers, Mathematics, Physics, and College Writing - all taught by University professors. All UNITE students are registered as University students and receive an official grade in each of their five classes. Students can earn two college credits per course provided they earn at least a C. Applicants to the program are required to have at least a 2.40 GPA, no grades below a C- and good citizenship/conduct marks. Those students who are considered are invited to the interview phase. At that point, a personal essay and teacher letter of recommendation must be submitted. The UNITE program is sponsored by the Junior Engineering and Technical Society (JETS) with support from the U.S. Army Research Office. Of the UNITE graduates, 79% are enrolled in college nationwide. 1
For the past three years we have used the Physics of Cell Phones and Wireless Communications 2 , as part of the UNITE program at the University. The curriculum was developed by high school physics teachers to comply with state curriculum standards and guidelines in the natural sciences. This class replaced a traditional introductory college mechanics laboratory curriculum, which was not inquiry-based and provided only limited opportunities for students to construct their own knowledge by performing open-ended activities.
Research into physics education provides insight for the design of innovative curricula and pedagogy. 3 The learning environments that are able to demonstrate the highest rates of student achievement, as measured by standardized examinations, involve some form of what is commonly called interactive engagement. Hake defines, ‘‘Interactive Engagement’’ (IE) methods as those designed at least in part to promote conceptual understanding through interactive engagement of students in heads-on (always) and hands-on (usually) activities which yield immediate feedback through discussion with peers and/or instructors,…” 4 Innovative pedagogy such as collaborative learning, peer instruction, tutorials, and computer based instruction are now commonly used to increase student achievement (a comprehensive review of the literature can be found in reference 2). Students bring their personal histories with them to class, and it has been shown that their expectations play a critical role in the outcome of a physics course. 5 Similarly, it has been shown (for example, see Reference 5 and references therein) that student attitudes towards a Physics course they have completed influence their future engagement with science and engineering disciplines and subsequent career choices.
In this paper, we discuss student attitudes and interest in science and engineering arising from their participation in the Physics of Cell Phones class at the University of Detroit Mercy. Our
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