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Effects of Readiness Initiatives on Mechanical Engineering Retention and Success

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Robert J. Rabb P.E. The Citadel

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Robert Rabb is an associate professor and the Mechanical Engineering Program Director at The Citadel. He previously taught mechanical engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Military Academy and his M.S.E. and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. His research and teaching interests are in mechatronics, regenerative power, and multidisciplinary engineering.

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Monika Bubacz The Citadel

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Dr. Monika Bubacz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Leadership and Program Management at The Citadel. She received both her B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Poznan University of Technology in Poland, and the Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science from the University of New Orleans. Before her current appointment she has worked for Mercer University, Center for NanoComposites and Multifunctional Materials in Pittsburg, Kansas and Metal Forming Institute in Poznan, Poland. Her teaching and research interest areas include materials science, polymers and composites for aerospace applications, nanotechnology, and environmental sustainability.

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Jason Howison The Citadel

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Jason Howison is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at The Citadel. His research areas include computational fluid dynamics, wind turbine aeroelasticity, and engineering education.

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Kevin Skenes The Citadel

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Kevin Skenes is an assistant professor at The Citadel. His research interests include non-destructive evaluation, photoelasticity, manufacturing processes, and engineering education.

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Many students enter engineering programs with high levels of interest and excitement but change majors or leave early in the first two years. To assist the transition of students from high school to the rigor of college level engineering courses, The (Institution) developed a math review program and changed the science curriculum to attract and retain more engineering students. The (Institution) recently launched a new mechanical engineering program that saw over 10% of the incoming freshman class select it as their major. During the second year over 15% of the new freshmen class selected the mechanical engineering major. Both years had more than twice the enrollment of what was expected. The challenge was to make these students successful and keep as many of them in the program as possible. During the second year, the Math Review was offered and provided a two and a half week (10 sessions) review of Pre-Calculus designed to prepare students for different freshman math courses. An indirect benefit of the Math Review was the encouragement of good work habits early in the semester with daily work and learning where to find help. Implementation of the Math Review showed success in creating a sense of community among the mechanical engineering students and reducing withdrawals from math courses or changes of major at the same point the year before. A similar math review with emphasis put on engineering quantities and units was administered during the first few classes in the freshman mechanical engineering 101 course. Student involvement was reinforced by assigning computational homework after each class. A second initiative was also implemented. Chemistry 1 and 2, required of all mechanical engineers, were reorganized into a new course, Chemistry for Engineers which focused on specific topics for the mechanical engineering major versus the broader scope of the former courses. In conjunction with the Chemistry for Engineers, a new Biology for Engineers was developed for another engineering program. Mechanical engineering majors now take the new biology course in lieu of the second chemistry. In freshmen mechanical engineering courses, the faculty reinforced material and computations the students were also seeing in Physics and Chemistry, such as projectile motion and stoichiometry. Through these freshman engineering initiatives, students were able to see themselves as a mechanical engineering student and understand the types of knowledge and abilities essential to succeed. The objectives of this paper are to explain these readiness initiatives, to assess the first year program results quantitatively and qualitatively through retention data and surveys, and to discuss the future potential of the program.

Rabb, R. J., & Bubacz, M., & Howison, J., & Skenes, K. (2016, June), Effects of Readiness Initiatives on Mechanical Engineering Retention and Success Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26917

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