Asee peer logo

Creation, Development, and Delivery of a New Interactive First-Year Introduction to Engineering Course

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Monday Cornucopia (Classroom Innovations)

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Brian Scott Robinson University of Louisville


Nicholas Hawkins University of Louisville Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Nicholas Hawkins is a Graduate Teaching Assistance in the Engineering Fundamentals Department at the University of Louisville. A PhD student in Electrical and Computer Engineering, he received both his B.S. and M. Eng. from the University of Louisville in the same field. His research interests include power electronics and controls, as well as engineering education for first-year students.

visit author page


James E. Lewis University of Louisville

visit author page

James E. Lewis, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals in the J. B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville. His research interests include parallel and distributed computer systems, cryptography, engineering education, undergraduate retention and technology (Tablet PCs) used in the classroom.

visit author page


James Christopher Foreman University of Louisville Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Asst. Professor at University of Louisville, previous appointment at Purdue University. Teaching calculus, power and energy, and industrial control systems related courses. Research in artificial neural networks, expert systems, and new methods of teaching math/calculus. 15 years in industry control systems and power generation industry prior to academic career.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This complete evidence-based practice paper is focused on the initiation, development, and execution of the second component of a two-course sequence for first-year engineering students at a large, public university in the southeastern U.S. This sequence was developed with an engineering school-wide committee, and represents a thorough restructuring of the school’s first-year introduction to engineering program. The restructuring was designed to support the J.B. Speed School of Engineering’s effort to have a common first year throughout all engineering majors. The new course sequence provides students a more applicable and realistic understanding of the engineering experience. The second component of this sequence (Engineering Methods, Tools, & Practice II) exclusively takes place in the Engineering Garage (EG), a 15,000 ft2 makerspace that provides the course with individual classrooms in addition to laboratory-analogous stations that further augments course delivery. Key logistical challenges, such as student safety and space accommodations, that needed to be overcome for full course realization are discussed.

Each academic year, more than 500 first-year engineering students are exposed to this interactive course, which introduces students to fundamental engineering skills – including teamwork, design, project management, technical writing, critical thinking, programming, communication (including written, oral, and graphical), and an introduction to engineering research. The course includes extensive introductory design pedagogy; including two individual design challenges during the semester, and culminating in a team-based Cornerstone project that all students present at the end of the semester. For conveying key instructional topics to the students, a few select classes are held in the EG classroom(s), while additional instruction is delivered online via supplementary, instructor-created videos. The majority of the course meetings days occur in the EG makerspace and these meetings are activity-based.

Course instruction and activities are designed to methodically expose students to the aforementioned skills, as well as other topics that pertain to engineering fundamentals. Many of the course deliverables have been designed to be dual-purpose, in that they build student understanding of essential engineering skills while also assisting progression towards Cornerstone project completion. The vast majority of in-class activities are team-based and teams are created very early in the semester to be diverse in both background and discipline. Key features of the course include various student-utilized hand tools, various software, Arduino-based circuitry, 3D printers, and hardware-based Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs).

This course has quickly become high-profile amongst students, faculty, and metropolitan industry alike. End-of-semester surveys suggest strong, positive student feedback pertaining to teamwork development, as well as improvements upon student perceptions of critical thinking significance. Other institutional entities such as the entrepreneurship school have partnered with course administrators to educate students on topics synergistic with engineering. New course features have been added with the help of local industries. Future work includes adding new Cornerstone projects with the help and cooperation of local industry.

Robinson, B. S., & Hawkins, N., & Lewis, J. E., & Foreman, J. C. (2019, June), Creation, Development, and Delivery of a New Interactive First-Year Introduction to Engineering Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32564

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015