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Data And Stakeholder Driven Redesign of a First-Year Engineering Curriculum

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2022 First-Year Engineering Experience


East Lansing, Michigan

Publication Date

July 31, 2022

Start Date

July 31, 2022

End Date

August 2, 2022

Conference Session

Technical Session T1A

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James R McCusker PhD Wentworth Institute of Technology

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James R. McCusker is an Associate Professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Since joining Wentworth in 2010, he has been heavily involved with an array of interdisciplinary design courses that range from introductory to capstone courses.

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Christopher John Brigham Wentworth Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Professor Christopher Brigham has received multidisciplinary training in both the life sciences and in engineering. The focus of his B.S. work was in mass transfer and distillation. After three years working in industry, Prof. Brigham received his Ph.D. in 2006. His thesis work was focused on the interplay of the human commensal organism/opportunistic pathogen Bacteroides fragilis with the mammalian host. Specifically, he examined sugar utilization and how it affects the commensal and pathogenic lifestyles of B. fragilis. Prof. Brigham then moved to Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a postdoctoral scholar and later a Research Scientist. It was during this time that he developed a passion for biomanufacturing, fermentation and bioprocess engineering. He examined the industrially relevant bacterium Ralstonia eutropha (now known as Cupriavidus necator). R. eutropha is a soil bacterium that is the model organism for polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) bioplastic synthesis. He examined the biology of the PHA biosynthetic machinery and gene expression changes throughout PHA homeostasis. Also, he supervised a metabolic engineering project where R. eutropha was converted from a PHA producing organism to an isobutanol biofuel producing organism. Prof. Brigham joins Wentworth Institute of Technology from the Bioengineering Department at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he was an Assistant Professor. At UMass Dartmouth, Prof. Brigham expanded his interests further, examining material properties of biopolymers like PHA and chitin, producing triacylglycerols and biodiesel using the bacterium Rhodococcus opacus, and developing probiotic strains of Escherichia coli that can fight Salmonella and Clostridium infections. Also, Prof. Brigham acted as principal faculty advisor to the UMass Dartmouth iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) team. He is looking forward to developing many exciting undergraduate research projects at WIT based on these interests.
At Wentworth Institute of Technology, Professor Brigham engages students in research projects focused on biomanufacturing and biotechnology. Specifically, projects involve microbial conversion of waste carbon to value-added products like biofuels and bioplastics. Professor Brigham is a member of American Chemical Society, American Society of Microbiology and American Society of Engineering Education.
In addition to teaching and research, Professor Brigham serves on the Wentworth Faculty Senate and the Biological Engineering ABET and Curriculum Development Committee.

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Afsaneh Ghanavati Wentworth Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Afsaneh Ghanavati received the B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Shiraz University, Iran in 1998, and the M.S. and the Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Northeastern University, Boston, MA in 2012 and 2018 respectively. She is
currently an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering program, school of engineering at Wentworth Institute of Technology. Her present areas of interest include power systems, signal processing, dynamic phasors, dynamic power decomposition, power quality and microgrid. She has been a member of the Eta Kappa Nu, Engineering Honor Society and a member of IEEE and IEEE Power & Energy Society (IEEE PES).

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The first-year engineering experience has significant implications on both retention and overall student success. As institutions adjust first-year engineering programs to meet the needs of changing demographics and student expectations, various challenges arise to meet the needs of all stakeholder groups while providing a meaningful and high-value student experience. At the authors’ institution, a comprehensive redesign of a first-year engineering curricula, for 7 engineering programs, was developed over a 9-month period. The Task-force charged with the redesign drew on 5-years of institute data, stakeholder feedback, and an extensive literature review.

Through this work, the author identified various challenges that were caused by the original common first-year curricula. Institute data illustrated the impact of these challenges through their effect on program persistence and student success in subsequent years. In addition, the authors collected data from the following stakeholder groups: students, program faculty, laboratory technicians, admissions office, and administration. Stakeholder feedback indicated that there were both common and conflicting opinions on both the existing first-year program and desires for the redesign. This feedback provided additional challenges in the framing of the redesign since a priority was placed on gaining approval from all groups prior to implementing a new first-year engineering program.

In this paper, the authors present the first year of a multi-year study on the redesign of the first-year engineering program at the authors institution. In this initial work, the authors focus on the insight drawn from the institute data, stakeholder feedback, and literature review to frame the redesign of the first-year engineering program. Other institutions should benefit from the presentation of challenges caused by the original common first-year and from the impact of stakeholder feedback on framing the redesign.

McCusker, J. R., & Brigham, C. J., & Ghanavati, A. (2022, July), Data And Stakeholder Driven Redesign of a First-Year Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2022 First-Year Engineering Experience, East Lansing, Michigan. 10.18260/1-2--42222

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