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Correlations Between Mechanical Aptitude, Prior Experiences, And Attitude Toward Engineering

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Conference

2010 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Student Learning and Assessment

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count

11

Page Numbers

15.325.1 - 15.325.11

DOI

10.18260/1-2--16647

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/16647

Download Count

402

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Paper Authors

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Michele Miller Michigan Technological University

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Dr. Michele Miller is an Associate Professor in mechanical engineering. She teaches classes on manufacturing and controls and does disciplinary research on microelectromechanical systems and precision machining. Her educational research interests include problem solving in the lab and informal engineering education.

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Anna Pereira Michigan Technological University

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Anna Pereira is a graduate student in mechanical engineering. Her research interests include human factors, ergonomics, and engineering education.

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Margot Hutchins Michigan Technological Universtiy

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Margot Hutchins is a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering and a Graduate Scholar of the Sustainable Futures Institute. The primary objective of her research is to develop a model that addresses the relationship between decision alternatives and sustainability, especially the societal dimension. Other research interests include life cycle assessment, decision making, and engineering education.

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William Helton Michigan Technological University

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Dr. William Helton is an Associate Professor in cognitive and learning sciences. He teaches
classes in human factors and educational psychology and does disciplinary research on attention, expertise, and stress. His educational research interests include cognitive load theory, expertise development, and psychometrics.

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Leonard Bohmann Michigan Technological University

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Dr. Leonard Bohmann is a faculty member in electrical engineering and presently serves as the
Associate Dean of Engineering. His disciplinary research interests are in expanding the use of
renewable energy in electric power systems. He has research interests in gender differences and
how they relate to engineering education as well as methods to increase the participation of
women in engineering.

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Chris VanArsdale Michigan Technological University

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Christopher Van Arsdale is a graduate student in mining engineering. His interests include power systems, controls, and mining.

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

Correlations Between Mechanical Aptitude, Prior Experiences, and Attitude Toward Engineering

Introduction

Most engineering educators would agree that hands-on skills are important for success as an engineer. Two of the ABET criteria1 address hands-on skills to some extent: ability to design and conduct experiments and interpret data (criteria b); and ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice (criteria k). Six of the thirteen laboratory objectives described by Feisel and Rosa2 address hands-on skills: Instrumentation, Experiment, Data Analysis, Design, Psychomotor, and Sensory Awareness. While the emphasis in the early part of the 20th century was on the practical, it shifted to the theoretical in mid- century because it was believed that scientifically trained engineers would create more revolutionary products3. The pendulum has more recently shifted back to the practical with greater emphasis on project-based learning4. Even as engineering work becomes increasingly sophisticated, practical ability and intuition about physical phenomenon remain important.

In addition to grade point average, employers pay attention to practical experience. Recruiters routinely ask about hands-on experiences outside of classes during the interview process. There seems to be something transferable about practical hands-on abilities5. In other words, even if a new hire won’t be operating machine tools in their engineering job, employers seem to believe that the skills a student acquired by working in a machine shop transfer to better ability to tackle engineering problems. Surveys of industry representatives, academics, and students have found that “engineering practice” knowledge and skills and hands-on skills are highly valued by industry6,7.

Based on surveys of 406 graduates in mechanical and electrical engineering, McIlwee and Robinson8 conclude that mechanical know-how is more important to success on the job than to success in college (where math skills are especially important). “Whether or not they actually build prototypes or tinker with equipment on the job, they need to be able to present themselves as someone who is capable of doing so”. They further identify a “tinkering deficit” that puts women at a disadvantage in the workplace.

Students in engineering have vastly different levels of hands-on ability. Most of this ability seems to be learned outside of school in work and hobby experiences. Lab and project courses provide an opportunity to develop these abilities, but they can fall short in many ways: labs are cookbook and thus do not challenge students to figure out new approaches; labs are often done with partners or teams, and some students do not get hands-on experience; faculty hand off the teaching of labs to graduate students and do not invest a lot of effort in improving them; lab activity is designed to support the learning of theoretical concepts rather than to support the

Miller, M., & Pereira, A., & Hutchins, M., & Helton, W., & Bohmann, L., & VanArsdale, C. (2010, June), Correlations Between Mechanical Aptitude, Prior Experiences, And Attitude Toward Engineering Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16647

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