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Development and Implementation of a Long-term Freshmen Service Project: The Design and Deployment of an Engineering Outreach Experience for Underserved Populations

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 8: Project-based Learning and Cornerstone Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.510.1 - 26.510.20



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Paper Authors


James M Widmann California Polytechnic State University

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Jim Widmann is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He received his Ph.D. in 1994 from Stanford University. Currently he teaches mechanics and design courses. He conducts research in the areas of machine design, fluid power control and engineering education. He is a past Chair of the ASEE-DEED Division and a U.S. Fulbright Scholar.

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Brian P. Self California Polytechnic State University

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Brian Self obtained his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech, and his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Utah. He worked in the Air Force Research Laboratories before teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy for seven years. Brian has taught in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo since 2006. During the 2011-2012 academic year he participated in a professor exchange, teaching at the Munich University of Applied Sciences. His engineering education interests include collaborating on the Dynamics Concept Inventory, developing model-eliciting activities in mechanical engineering courses, inquiry-based learning in mechanics, and design projects to help promote adapted physical activities. Other professional interests include aviation physiology and biomechanics.

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Peter Schuster California Polytechnic State University

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Dr. Peter Schuster is a professor in the mechanical engineering department at Cal Poly, focusing on design and stress analysis. He has a B.S. in Physics and an M.S. & Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. After working ten years in the automotive industry, Peter thoroughly enjoys teaching undergraduates. He is interested in biomechanics, using design to improve quality of life, and diversity in engineering.

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Development and Implementation of a Long-Term Freshmen Service Project: The Design and Deployment of an Engineering Outreach Experience for Underserved PopulationsAbstractFreshmen year programs in engineering have received recent and growing attention as a methodto engage first year students in their profession and start them on a path to success. Servicelearning is a well-known pedagogical method that has been shown to improve retentionespecially of underrepresented groups in engineering and promote deeper learning throughreflection. This paper describes the implementation of a new long-term (full year) servicelearning project where 240 freshmen mechanical engineering students worked together in smallteams to design and deploy an engineering outreach experience for a designated age-group of 4th-11th grade students. This educational experience is designed to expose the freshmen engineeringstudents to a variety of concepts and skills necessary for successful negotiation of theirengineering careers. The project forces the freshmen to challenge their assumptions andconceptions of what an engineer is and does. Other knowledge and skills include understandingand using the engineering design process, effectively working on engineering teams, effectivelycommunicating, planning and making decisions all while solving an open-ended problem. Theexperience also asks the freshmen to consider diverse perspectives as they design for the targetedpopulations. The paper describes the project implementation and presents results from studentreflections and from a survey a survey tool. Lessons learned and recommendations for bestpractices will also be presented.

Widmann, J. M., & Self, B. P., & Schuster, P. (2015, June), Development and Implementation of a Long-term Freshmen Service Project: The Design and Deployment of an Engineering Outreach Experience for Underserved Populations Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23848

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