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Development Of A Targeted Engineering Application Course To Improve Retention

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Integrating Mathematics and Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.461.1 - 10.461.9



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Paper Authors

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Todd Johnson

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Eric Key University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

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Christopher Papadopoulos University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez

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Dale Buechler University of Wisconsin-Platteville

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

Development of a targeted engineering application course to improve retention

Dale N. Buechler, Christopher M. Papadopoulos, Todd R. Johnson, Eric S. Key

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Abstract – At our institution not quite a quarter of our entering freshmen who plan to study engineering are calculus ready. As a result, the entry of some of these students into core engineering courses is being delayed by over a year. This delay is a contributing factor in the poor retention of freshman engineering students at our school. Another difficulty we face is that many students entering their core engineering classes are not retaining important mathematical concepts from their prior algebra and trigonometry coursework. To address both of these issues, we propose a one-semester pilot course involving engineering applications and experiments to be offered concurrently with college algebra and trigonometry at our institution. The purpose of this course is to have these potential engineering students use the mathematical skills they are currently learning and apply them to engineering problems. This paper will discuss the development of this course in conjunction with our mathematics department. Ultimately it is anticipated that this course will allow us to retain capable engineering students who may otherwise become disenchanted with their delayed access to engineering courses plus will give them better skills for their upper division classes.


Engineering education over the next decade provides numerous challenges. One of the biggest of these is the retention of engineering students. Our Programs at the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), like so many others throughout the country, are based on the assumption that incoming freshman students are calculus ready upon arrival. Unfortunately, this has become the exception instead of the rule. As a result, a majority of our students must complete the prerequisite mathematics courses prior to entering into the traditional first-year engineering curriculum. Since so many of the engineering courses have calculus prerequisites, these students often find that they will reach a point at which they cannot take any other classes until they complete the calculus series. Some of these students, who were initially excited about engineering upon arrival, become disenchanted and give up their dreams of becoming engineers. Many of those who do persevere obtain only a superficial understanding of the material; they look at each exam and each class as a hurdle that they have to clear to move on. It has been our experience that engineering students are more attentive in mathematically challenging engineering classes if we give them practical “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Johnson, T., & Key, E., & Papadopoulos, C., & Buechler, D. (2005, June), Development Of A Targeted Engineering Application Course To Improve Retention Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14761

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