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Encouraging Students to See the Role of Service Courses in Their Major

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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

Promoting Engineering and Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.598.1 - 26.598.13



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Paper Authors


Kenneth W. Van Treuren Baylor University

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Ken Van Treuren is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering at Baylor University. He received his B. S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and his M. S. in Engineering from Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. After serving as USAF pilot in KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft, he completed his DPhil in Engineering Sciences at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom and returned to the USAF Academy to teach heat transfer and propulsion systems. At Baylor University, he teaches courses in laboratory techniques, fluid mechanics, energy systems, and propulsion systems, as well as freshman engineering. Research interests include renewable energy to include small wind turbine aerodynamics and experimental convective heat transfer as applied to HVAC and gas turbine systems.

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ENCOURAGING STUDENTS TO SEE THE ROLE OF SERVICE COURSES IN THEIR MAJORKenneth W. Van TreurenMany departments are involved with service courses which support both their programs andother programs across the campus. These can be courses such as thermodynamics which couldsupport all engineering disciplines and computer or math courses which support majors outsidetheir department. It also could be liberal arts courses, such as English or History, which supportengineering majors. In all of these service courses, often students do not see the relevance of thecourse to the major or sometimes engineering faculty downplay the importance of these courses.This paper explores the importance of service courses to an engineering curriculum and the rolethat engineering service courses can play in a liberal arts curriculum. A specific example is acourse taught by the author while on sabbatical at the USAF Academy. This course was anintroductory course in aeronautics required by all students at the USAF Academy. The author’ssection had 25 students from majors as varied as English and History as well as Physics andCivil Engineering. In the syllabus 50 points (out of 1000) were allocated to instructor points tobe used how the instructor viewed appropriate. For this section, the students were asked to writea three page essay on how the subject of aeronautics intersects with their chosen major. Thisposed thought provoking reflection essay, the type of which was not expected in an introductoryengineering class. Students were encouraged to talk with their advisor, other classmates, otherstudents in the major, and with the author. Several students chose the latter and excellentdiscussions were had outside of the classroom. As a result, essays were thoughtful and thoughtprovoking. In a survey that was accomplished after the essays were graded and returned, manystudents thought the essay valuable and appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the relevance ofaeronautics to their major. They made connections between aeronautics and their major wherepreviously they thought none existed. This had the effect of changing their attitude towards thecourse and the material, a positive outcome.

Van Treuren, K. W. (2015, June), Encouraging Students to See the Role of Service Courses in Their Major Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23936

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