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Developing a Summer Bridge Course for Improving Retention in Engineering

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

FPD 6: Transitions and Student Success, Part II

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.389.1 - 23.389.13

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Paper Authors


Jerry Volcy Spelman College

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Jerry Volcy is President of Embedded Solutions, LLC and COO of SoftWear Automation Inc., both based in Atlanta, GA. Embedded Solutions is an engineering firm that develops firmware for the biomedical, education, fiber optics, robotics and gaming industries. SoftWear Automation is a DARPA funded Georgia Tech startup that aims to automate the manufacture of sewn goods. Dr. Volcy is also a part-time member of the faculty at Spelman College.

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Carmen Sidbury Spelman College

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Developing a Summer Bridge Course for Improving Retention in Engineering (curriculum exchange)This paper outlines the details of a summer bridge, project-based, cooperative,introduction to engineering course developed and successfully implemented at [LiberalArts] College in an effort to increase the retention rate of students to be enrolled in itsdual-degree engineering program. The course aims to expose incoming students of anySTEM discipline to a broad array of practical and theoretical engineering principles forthe purpose of helping students make informed decisions about pursuing engineering as astudy major prior to the start of their freshman year. To satisfy this objective, the cross-disciplinary course that was developed is based on completing a software-driven, electro-mechanical engineering project that, at various times and to various extents, calls uponstudents to function in the capacity of an electrical engineer, a mechanical engineer, atechnician, a mathematician, a computer scientist, a researcher and a communicator oftechnical material. In so doing, the students gain insight about how engineers combineknowledge from these diverse disciplines to solve a real problem—in this case,constructing and characterizing a 2-DOF, servoed laser system used to trace arbitrarypatterns against a wall. Using an "inverted curriculum" approach that by-passes the firsttwo years of the classic engineering curriculum, the course immerses the students directlyinto an engineering design project in an attempt to capture, as closely as possible, theend-goal of engineering training while providing a window to the challenges andgratifications of engineering both in practice and in an R&D setting. It was observedthat, far from having the feared effect of driving the students to disinterest, challengingthe students with a difficult curriculum of technical concepts to be used to solve a non-trivial but well-defined and tangible problem elicited high interest and thoughtfulevaluations and re-evaluations of engineering as a study major. Details of the course,which involves the development of a micro-controller based, multi-threaded, pulse-width-modulating, dual servo motor controller that manipulates the orientation of a laserpointer are discussed.                                                                                                                                                                  Image  by  Ebone  Monk                                                                                                      Image  by  Brianna  Harris  &  DeLisa  Griffin   A Five-Pointed Star A Purse                                                                                Image  by  Kayla  Broughton  &  Imani  Herbert                                                                                                                    Image  by  Jayne  Rice  &  Erin  Briscoe A Barn A Six-Pointed Star of DavidSupporting illustrations of final results from a few of the student servoed laser projects. The projectinvolves the use a pair of servo motors, a laser pointer and a micro-controller to build a dual-axis servo-motor controller that manipulates the orientation of the laser pointer. The images above are long-exposurephotographs of the patterns traced out by the devices. In each case, exposure times are on the order of 2-3seconds.  

Volcy, J., & Sidbury, C. (2013, June), Developing a Summer Bridge Course for Improving Retention in Engineering Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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