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Assessment Of Providing In Class, Hands On, Activities To Virginia Tech's First Year Engineering Students

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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

6.218.1 - 6.218.7



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Jeffrey B. Connor

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Richard Goff

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

Session 2793

Assessment of Providing In-Class, Hands-On, Activities to Virginia Tech’s First Year Engineering Students

Jeffrey B. Connor, Richard M. Goff

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Historically, engineering has been a practical outgrowth of the need to solve physical problems. Engineering education was initially based in practical laboratory and shop experiences, as well as traditional instruction in science and mathematics. Following World War II, engineering education in the United States began emphasizing theoretical sciences and mathematics. Though a justified response at the time, this approach has evolved to one of less and less practical instruction. Today, there is a strong need to supplement traditional teaching with activities that give practical meaning to the equations presented in the lecture1. To partially address this problem, we presented several hands-on collaborative experiences in eight of the 36 Introduction to Engineering (EF1015) lecture classes during the 2000 fall semester.

This paper will discuss the impact of these activities on student learning and perception of learning. A questionnaire to assess student perceptions of learning was given at mid- semester and at the end of the semester to eight hands-on (HO) sections and ten traditional (TR) sections. We first compare HO versus TR mid-semester responses and final responses to see if there is any difference in the students’ perception of their learning. We then compare HO mid-semester perceptions versus HO end semester perceptions to see if hands-on activities were more beneficial to latter subjects. The results of these surveys and comparisons are presented as are our conclusions concerning using hands-on activities in class.


Virginia Tech requires all first semester engineering students to take Introduction to Engineering I (EF 1015); a two-credit course designed to introduce the profession and to develop problem-solving skills. The instruction of engineering has become more theoretical and our students less hands-on over the last 50 years. It is entirely possible for an engineering student to graduate without ever having built or analyzed an engineering object. A fall 2000 survey of Tech’s incoming freshman students showed that they come to engineering having very little experience in practical, technical, matters. The survey showed that: • One half do not know the location of their home’s breaker box • One half have not changed the oil in a car

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

Connor, J. B., & Goff, R. (2001, June), Assessment Of Providing In Class, Hands On, Activities To Virginia Tech's First Year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--8933

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