June 22, 2003
June 22, 2003
June 25, 2003
8.1.1 - 8.1.6
Engineering First at Northwestern University: Where We Are in 2003
Stephen H. Carr Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
Abstract Seven years ago we launched an innovative freshman curricular revision we call Engineering First, and it is now possible to see some of the lasting benefits it has added to the McCormick education. This paper will overview of how closely the intended outcomes were met and how Engineering First has driven curricular reforms at upper levels of our curricula. Evolution of the pedagogy as well as content of the Engineering First courses has occurred, and many discipline-specific courses have now adapted to the enhanced capabilities (and expectations!) that our students have. Most significantly, combining work that emphasizes communication skills with the doing of design (as a hallmark activity of engineers) is now being implemented in senior level capstone experiences. Consequences of Engineering First on attracting incoming students as well as on post-graduation careers will be presented.
Introduction Engineering First is the McCormick School's response to the many calls for curricular change coming from the profession and from external concerns, such as the National Academy of Engineering and the National Science Foundation. Engineering First challenges its students to develop new ways of thinking, by converting them from learning academic topics in isolation to learning engineering topics in an integrative fashion. Given that engineering at its very essence is "the creation of new things that people want", then young women and men who aspire to advance mankind's well being need exactly this kind of holistic thinking. Most engineering freshmen have little accurate knowledge about what distinguishes an engineering education from one in, say, science, but today's college students actually become energized by getting into engineering academic work as soon as they enter college.
Implementation of a significant revision of the freshman engineering curriculum has required the usual mix of patience, vision, diligence, and attention to details. The process here at Northwestern started by engaging leading faculty to drive this enterprise. Using their collective wisdom they crafted two new course sequences that encompassed the topics of courses in our then-existing basic courses. All-faculty approval was then garnered. A multi-year phase-in plan was implemented. Resources were acquired progressively. Ample communication with students, parents, University administration, and faculty was a priority. Continuous improvement was based on feedback from students, instructors, grades, enrollments, and employers, and this continuous
Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education.
Carr, S. (2003, June), "Engineering First" At Northwestern University Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. https://peer.asee.org/12395
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2003 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015