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Confidence of Undecided First-Year Engineering Students in Choosing Their Major and Implications for Retention

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Student Division Early Introduction to Engineering Technical Session

Tagged Division

Student

Page Count

11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28067

Download Count

108

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Paper Authors

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Ashley Evanoski-Cole Colorado State University

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Ashley Evanoski-Cole is a Graduate Research Assistant in the Department of Atmospheric Science within the College of Engineering at Colorado State University. With a B.S. in Chemistry and a M.S. in Atmospheric Science, she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science. She studies anthropogenic impacts on air quality, focusing on emissions from oil and gas extraction. Her educational research has focused on understanding first-year student confidence in STEM and impacts on retention.

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Kimberly Catton P.E. Colorado State University

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Professor of Practice
Mechanical Engineering

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Bert Vermeulen Colorado State University

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Bert Vermeulen earned bachelors and masters degrees in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a masters degree in business from Stanford University. He has been teaching engineering design classes and introductory engineering classes at Colorado State University since 2009. Prior to teaching, Bert had over 20 years of practical industry experience in engineering, management, and entrepreneurship. His courses are focused on providing practical hands-on engineering experience. In addition to teaching classes to native English speakers, he has also taught special introductory engineering classes for foreign students who do not have English as their primary language.

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Jamison Taylor Bair Colorado State University

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Jamison Bair is a Graduate Student pursuing a Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University. He received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado State University in May 2016. Jamison is one of the GTAs for MECH-468, the senior design capstone class at CSU. He is also the Project Manager for the CSU Vehicle Innovation Team competing in the intercollegiate automotive engineering competition EcoCAR3 and the President of the CSU Student Chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE). His areas of research include manufacturing education, advanced composite material structure design and manufacturing, and design and assembly of energy storage systems. He most recently completed an internship at Tesla Motors and hopes to work in the transportation or renewable energy industry after completing his MS.

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Thomas H. Bradley Colorado State University

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Thomas H. Bradley is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering at Colorado State University, where he conducts research and teaches a variety of courses in analysis, design and policy for sustainable energy systems. In 2013, Bradley was awarded the Ralph R. Teetor Award for Excellence in Engineering Education and the US Dept of Energy EcoCAR2 Outstanding Incoming Faculty Advisor Award.

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Abstract

Freshman students often start college with uncertainties about what major they want to study. This research presents student survey data that were collected in a project-based introductory engineering class at Colorado State University where students have enrolled in the College of Engineering but are undecided on a specific discipline to study. Surveys were administered to the students in this class to measure their experiences, attitudes, interests, and confidence to understand what factors influenced their decision in choosing a major and how that impacted retention in the College of Engineering. Engineering degrees require a strong foundation in math, chemistry, and physics, and these courses generally make up the majority of a first-year engineering student’s class schedule. However, some freshman students are uncertain about their abilities in math and science. Confidence can be an important factor in students who are not retained in engineering programs. In this introductory engineering class, a variety of activities and opportunities were provided to the students to gain a broad sense of what is involved in being an engineer and to learn about the specific engineering disciplines. Additional university or department resources were available to the engineering students to help with math, chemistry, physics, or engineering classes, which included tutoring or extra help sessions. This study investigates how the different activities and resources both inside and outside of the introductory engineering course impact how students decide their engineering discipline and their confidence in their decision. At the beginning of the semester, only 15% of the total class and 0% of female students were very confident in their decision of what engineering discipline they wanted to study. As the semester progressed, survey data indicated that student’s confidence levels in picking their engineering major did not change significantly even though the majority of students did choose a major by the end of the semester. Students tended to view math, physics, and chemistry as being more challenging by the end of the semester with no significant trends found in student confidence in these subjects. According to student surveys, at the beginning of the semester over 67% of the class identified math, chemistry, and physics as being challenging subjects versus over 82% by the end of the semester. This preliminary study can be used to further develop resources to help first-year undecided engineering students confidently choose their course of undergraduate study which could lead to an improvement in retention.

Evanoski-Cole, A., & Catton, K., & Vermeulen, B., & Bair, J. T., & Bradley, T. H. (2017, June), Confidence of Undecided First-Year Engineering Students in Choosing Their Major and Implications for Retention Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28067

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