New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Many colleges and universities have adopted a cornerstone curriculum for first year engineering core courses since the early 1990’s.(ref 1-5) Motivations for this approach include better career preparation for engineering students and improved engineering education in general. As a result of these initiatives, cornerstone courses may be taught by a dedicated group of faculty who have engineering experience in industry, who are more design-oriented as opposed to research-oriented, and who have exemplary teaching abilities that engage first-year engineering students.(ref 6,7) In 2012, after a comprehensive curriculum review by a faculty committee at Unknown U, the first-year engineering program decided to adopt the “cornerstone to capstone” curriculum design. The overarching goal of the cornerstone was the integration of design, programming, graphical communication, and engineering analysis through real world, hands-on design projects. This goal directly supports the interdisciplinary, student-centered approach recommended by the National Academy of Engineering’s Educating the Engineer of 2020 report (ref 8).
Additional motivation for the cornerstone approach came from student feedback, the changing profile of first year students, and increased access to affordable technologies such as programmable microcontroller kits and 3D printing. Today’s students are entering the university with more advanced placement credit and an increased level of experience with hands-on projects and technologies, such as electronics. This cohort of students are looking for more depth in exploring engineering and a sense of real world problems along with taking courses at an accelerated pace. First pilots of the cornerstone course included a 14-week, 390 minutes per week course, while logistical concerns led the second pilot study to include both a 14-week course and a 28-week, 195 minutes per week course. Several measures were reviewed to evaluate success of the cornerstone. In comparing course content artifacts from the previous courses to similar ones from cornerstone, the cornerstone students of similar entrance skills did as well as the previous students on tests, projects, quizzes and presentations. Cornerstone students also reported similar positive outcomes for learning in the new course compared to students in the traditional courses, and even reported how they couldn’t imagine the courses not integrated. Similar assessments are planned for the Fall 2015 8-credit 28-week pilot. Since the final cornerstone projects required students to build working prototypes that combined engineering and design concepts from both traditional courses, the integrated cornerstone approach successfully accomplished interdisciplinary learning, and additional themes have been developed for the current pilot. This paper will report on the motivations and lessons learned at Unknown U in implementing a cornerstone approach.
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8. National Academy of Engineering. (2005). Educating the engineer of 2020: Adapting engineering education to the new century. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.
Freeman, S. F., & Pfluger, C., & Whalen, R., & Schulte Grahame, K., & Hertz, J. L., & Variawa, C., & Love, J. O., & Sivak, M. L., & Maheswaran, B. (2016, June), Cranking Up Cornerstone: Lessons Learned from Implementing a Pilot with First-Year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26595
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