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Development Of Engineering Connections Environments To Contextualize Engineering Content Modules

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Capstone Design & Project Courses

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.533.1 - 12.533.8



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Paper Authors

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Darryl Morrell Arizona State University

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Robert Hinks Arizona State University

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Mark Henderson Arizona State University

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

Development of Engineering Connections Environments to Contextualize Engineering Content Modules


This paper describes the creation of a learner-centered, project- and problem-based environment for learning foundational engineering science topics; this environment has been named an Engineering Connections Environment (ECE). The ECE is implemented in the context of the sophomore year of the multi-disciplinary undergraduate engineering program at Arizona State University at the Polytechnic campus, in which a project topic guides the selection of five one-credit-hour engineer- ing content modules. The ECE combines these content modules within a project-based learning environment; the modules are integrated with problem-based learning exercises, background pre- requisite material, and additional real-world applications. It is believed that the ECE approach will enhance students’ engagement with the engineering topics and improve their ability to structure their own learning.

The concept of an ECE is broader in content but similar in structure to holistic content modules developed to teach numerical methods to engineering students;1, 2 these holistic modules include pre-requisite information, real-life applications, text material, simulations, and self assessment.

In this paper, we present the initial development and informal assessment of an Engineering Con- nections Environment. We first discuss the unusual curricular context for which the ECE has been developed, then describe in more detail the components of the ECE and how they work together. We then present the implementation of the ECE in the Fall 2006 semester and some assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of their implementation.

Curricular Context

The ECE has been developed in the context of a newly developed four-year multi-disciplinary engineering program at the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University. In this program, all students learn a common body of engineering foundation material in their freshman and sophomore years, and then specialize through a primary and secondary concentration in their junior and senior years. Both semesters of the sophomore year employ the novel project/module course structure shown in Figure 1. In this structure, a project course is combined with companion engineering content modules that support the project; the project provides an integrating experience for the content. Four one-credit-hour content modules are loosely structured into a companion course, and a one-credit-hour content module is embedded in the project course. This curricular structure is implemented in a studio environment where projects and problems are done in collaborative student teams working with faculty mentors. In some primary concentrations, the project/module course structure may also be used in a junior or senior semester.

This model is adapted from the approach used at Aalborg University in Denmark;3, 4, 5 the model provides curricular agility and supports engaged learning. Agility is achieved by changing the project topic from semester to semester in response to student interests, faculty expertise, and opportunities for collaboration with industry and the Engineering Program’s broader constituency. This structure supports pedagogies of engagement6, 7 which include Problem Based Learning (PBL),


Morrell, D., & Hinks, R., & Henderson, M. (2007, June), Development Of Engineering Connections Environments To Contextualize Engineering Content Modules Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2586

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