June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Cooperative & Experiential Education
14.557.1 - 14.557.10
Impacts of an Early Research Experience on Recruiting and Retention in Engineering
One of the premier events in an engineering curriculum is participation in a summer internship program. The United States Military Academy (USMA) has developed a program to promote academic activities beyond the basic engineering requirements. This program has recently been opened to students that have yet to declare their major. One intent of the original program was to enhance the students’ learning and problem solving experience in a real world environment and perhaps give them a start on their capstone project. The summer internship program allows them to conduct research and solve engineering problems with scientists and engineers in some of the nation’s finest facilities. The Academic Individual Advanced Development (AIAD) program is purely voluntary, but nearly all of the civil and mechanical engineering majors forfeit some of their free time to participate in the program every summer. These internships are usually four weeks in duration due to other institutional requirements that can only be accomplished during the summer. This, however, is sufficient time to allow the students to be exposed to, work on, and sometimes solve an engineering problem. The Army Material Command (AMC) and United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) sponsor most of the AIADs, but there are sponsors from private engineering organizations, NASA, the national labs, and other Department of Defense activities. This paper describes the AIAD program and discusses how it attracts and retains engineering majors. Additionally, feedback from the project sponsors can be used to measure student progress and assess the curriculum.
“My sponsor and others at the Laboratory took time to talk with me not just about math and science but also the politics and struggles of research. The experience of working in classified and sensitive environments taught me discipline and procedure that I would not have learned elsewhere. Taking part in a long term planning meeting expanded my view on how engineers address problems and choose directions for research”1. The above quotation speaks to the invaluable experience students obtain from AIAD experiences that cannot be taught in academia. Other advantages and benefits, similar to those outlined here, to both individual students and outside organizations are well documented2-5. Internships, regardless of length, provide an opportunity for students to get their feet in the doors of various outside organizations. They give the student the best of both worlds: theory and example in the classroom and hands-on experience in the real world. Additionally, it is great chance for an organization to see the student’s performance, as well as, for the student to experience the culture of the organization.
Educating students at USMA is rewarding and challenging. With many mandatory activities and required classes in the humanities and basic sciences, finding more time for academics is not an easy task. Moreover, the Academy is an undergraduate teaching institution, so some students
Rabb, R., & Nowicki, M., & Bristow, E. (2009, June), Engineering Internships For First Year Engineering And Undeclared Majors Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/4781
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