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Developing A Freshman Introduction To Engineering Textbook

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD9 -- Technology & Textbooks

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.429.1 - 11.429.11

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Paper Authors


Philip Kosky Union College

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Philip G. Kosky has been the GE Distinguished Research Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Union College, Schenectady, NY since early 2001. He obtained his PhD and MS degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and his BSc at University College London in Chemical Engineering. He spent 32 years as a staff
scientist with the GE R&D Center in Niskayuna, NY. He has written or presented about 180 papers, reports, and patents.

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William Keat Union College

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William D. Keat is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Union College. Professor Keat earned BS and MS degrees in mechanical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a PhD in mechanical
engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has taught numerous courses in design from the freshman to the graduate level and conducts research in the area of computational fracture mechanics.

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George Wise Union College

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Biography to be added later.

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Robert Balmer Union College

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

Developing a Freshman Introduction to Engineering Textbook Abstract

What should a freshman introduction to engineering course achieve and how will an appropriate textbook help meet the course goals? In this paper, we summarize our experiences searching for a text and ultimately how and why we decided to write our own book.

It can be said that the primary purpose of a first year introduction to an engineering course is to win the hearts and minds of first year college students who are considering an engineering career. It should not be so formal that the students are repelled or overwhelmed by technical issues while, at the same time, it should introduce some of the basic principles of engineering so that the students can experience what it might be like to spend their life as a professional engineer. Ideally the first year engineering course should emphasize basic principles as physical realities rather than be an exercise in abstruse terminology and/or even more abstruse mathematical formulae. An associated freshman-engineering textbook should reflect the excitement of the profession with language, topics, and examples that will stimulate young men and women. It should also assure that all students are getting the same message in a multiple section interdisciplinary course taught by more than one instructor. In addition, it should provide a supplemental guide to the various engineering majors in a limited amount of academic contact time. To state the obvious, one important property of a first year textbook should be to introduce no material that has to be unlearned.

The approach we have developed makes a clear distinction between engineering “analysis” (what we call minds-on engineering) and engineering “design” (called hands-on engineering). The focus in the minds-on material is provided by a specific course theme: the modern automobile (which is today’s highly complex “Smart Car”). Modern automotive technology clearly illustrates the need for an interdisciplinary team approach to engineering, and deals with a technology (cars) familiar (at least superficially) to all students. The focus in the hands-on material is in teaching the basic tenants of the design process and minds-on material, teamwork, resource management, and creativity.

Background Engineering Bachelor's Degrees Aw arded Meaningful freshman engineering courses are Number of Engineering

relatively new. Until the 1990s the first two years of 80000 75000 engineering were devoted to developing the 70000 Graduates

65000 analytical tools needed in the last two years – mainly 60000 55000 calculus and physics. As an aside, it’s not clear why 50000 45000 we continue to require physics since we then expand 40000 and re-teach the same subject matter as statics, 35000 30000 dynamics, materials, thermodynamics, circuits, and 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 200 200 0 5 so forth. By the early 1990s it became clear that Year there was a severe decline in engineering enrollment, (Nat i onal Sci ence Foundat i on, Di vi si on of Sci ence Resour ces St at i st i cs, Sci ence and E ngi neer i ng Degr ees: 1966-2001, NSF 04-311, P r oj ect Of f i cer s, Susan T . and various studies pointed to first and second year Hi l l and Jean M . Johnson A r l i ngt on, V A 2004)

student disillusionment with engineering so these

Kosky, P., & Keat, W., & Wise, G., & Balmer, R. (2006, June), Developing A Freshman Introduction To Engineering Textbook Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois.

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