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Engaging Freshmen In A Hands On Discovery Of Mechanical Engineering

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.538.1 - 14.538.8



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Paper Authors

author page

David Miller Montana State University

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

Engaging Freshmen in a Hands-on Discovery of Mechanical Engineering

I. Abstract

This paper outlines a new approach in the introductory freshmen mechanical engineering course at Montana State University to increase student retention. The objective is to utilize, within the Introduction to Mechanical Engineering (ME101) course, a set of freshmen-level, hands-on laboratory modules across the breadth of mechanical engineering to introduce students to the character and scope of the mechanical engineering profession. It is put forward in this paper that students who understand the scope of their major are more likely to have a stronger belief in the correctness of their choice, thus resulting in fewer transfers out of the program. Through design of appropriate self-discovery laboratories, it is also hypothesized that freshmen students will develop a relational understanding between fundamental courses (i.e., physics, chemistry and math) and future curricula. This is important as many engineering students transfer out of the program before reaching upper level courses.

This paper will discuss the development and implementation of hands-on activities for freshmen students in the Mechanical Engineering (ME) program. Using techniques such as reverse engineering and design-build-test, students will be introduced to general mechanical engineering topics such as materials and structures and mechanical design. Integrated within each laboratory module are student presentations, curriculum investigation, and potential career opportunities. The success of this new approach will be discussed with regards to higher retention rates of mechanical engineering students as the program progresses, as well as, student confidence in degree choice, improved understanding of future curriculum and career potential.

II. Introduction

Every university, college, department and program struggles with attracting and retaining new students. From this motive, a significant body of research exists discussing these problems specifically for engineering programs across the nation1,2. Departments can no longer expect that students will choose a degree program based on reputation or salary potential. As departments within the Montana State University (MSU) College of Engineering (COE) compete nationally for entering students, the ability to attract, engage and motivate new students becomes an added requirement for the mechanical engineering program.

MSU is a land-grant institution of approximately 12,000 students located in a culturally-oriented Rocky Mountain community of approximately 30,000 situated between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Roughly 2000 students are enrolled in the COE which is comprised of five departments. The M&IE Department contains three Bachelor of Science programs: Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Technology. The Mechanical Engineering program has a ten-year average undergraduate enrollment of approximately 400 students, as seen in Figure 1.

Miller, D. (2009, June), Engaging Freshmen In A Hands On Discovery Of Mechanical Engineering Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5586

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