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Engineering "Discovery" An Entrance To The Profession

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.546.1 - 11.546.12



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Paper Authors

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Henry Sneck Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Donald Bunk Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Douglas Baxter Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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

Engineering “Discovery” – An Entrance to the Profession

Douglas H. Baxter Donald S. Bunk Henry Sneck

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute School of Engineering

Abstract – Many students entering into the study of Engineering have not chosen departmental majors. Perhaps more importantly they may not know what Engineers do as they ply their profession, and may have a misleading or unrealistic perception of their career choice.

Engineering “Discovery” is a course intended for students entering an engineering curriculum. By using carefully chosen artifacts such as electric toasters and warm-mist room humidifiers students learn how engineers apply physics principles, most already learned in secondary school, in the design of such products. They observe the artifacts and sub-systems and their interconnectivity and speculate on the thought and problem solving processes used by practicing engineers in developing the product. A unique requirement is that students report their findings using both solid modeling, technical reports and memorandums, problem solving, and presentation.


It is safe to say that few entering Engineering students have an idea of what practicing Engineers really do. They arrive at college with a variety of expectations which are often not realized until they reach their Junior or Senior years. Their backgrounds in mathematics and science are probably strong, and they may have participated in science fairs or class projects that are related to technology. However, they most likely have little or no sense of the complexity and attention to detail that Engineering requires, or just how Engineers work and think as they solve engineering and design problems.

Some engineering schools have required first semester courses which are intended to acquaint students with the different disciplines offered at the school. These “Introduction to Engineering” courses are usually in the form of a series of presentations by department faculty from the various disciplines. They may have literature available, use laboratory demonstrations, and discuss the variety of positions open to their discipline in industry. They may also mention opportunities for graduate study in their field and the availability of research and doctoral study.

The remainder of the student’s schedule in their first year usually consists of courses dealing with a fundamental body of knowledge as presented in the required mathematics, physics, computing, and other science courses, and possibly an “Engineering Science” course. Often

Sneck, H., & Bunk, D., & Baxter, D. (2006, June), Engineering "Discovery" An Entrance To The Profession Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1367

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