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Examining the effectiveness of the Engineering Launch program for first-year engineering students

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Technical Session 1: Student Success Boot Camps, Summer Bridge Programs, and Living Learning Communities

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Paper Authors


Yang Yang Kansas State University

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Associate professor of Quantitative educational research methodology in College of Education at Kansas State University. Teaches graduate levels courses in educational research method, statistics in educational research, and experimental design in educational research.

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Amy Betz Kansas State University


Craig Spencer

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Director of the Center for Quantitative Education and Professor of Mathematics at Kansas State University

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Examining the effectiveness of the Engineering Launch program for first-year engineering students

Motivation and Background: This COMPLETE EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICE PAPER examines whether participating in the Engineering Launch program at a large Midwestern land- grant university influences the academic readiness of engineering students before they enter Calculus I course. Many students enrolled in Calculus I are not prepared for it. The remedial program Engineering Launch aims to improve students’ math preparation in Trigonometry, Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, and bridge the perceived gaps in math preparation to get students ready for Calculus I. Many universities around the country have implemented similar remedial programs. There are two common approaches. One is a workshop-style course which typically requires weekly class time in addition to regular lectures [1]. The other is to offer a bridge course before the semester starts, with duration from one-week long [2] to several weeks [3, 4] These programs have shown positive results by increasing student pass rates in Calculus. The Engineering Launch program takes the second approach by offering a summer bridge course prior to the fall semester. This course is offered as a zero-credit hour course, which consists of a three-week online component and several in-person events the week before classes start. The course combines both synchronous and asynchronous math instruction. All instruction and module content is provided and delivered by a seasoned Calculus I instructor, who has over 15 years of experience teaching courses in calculus sequence. The course also includes one-on-one tutoring from a GTA in the Department of Mathematics. Learning about the usefulness of the Engineering Launch program can inform researchers, instructors, and administrators how to improve the readiness of first year engineering students in Calculus I and make it an effective approach in helping engineering students succeed academically.

Methods: In this quasi-experimental quantitative study, we focused specifically on students who are not ready to enroll in the Calculus I. To recruit participants, in April 2021, the College sent out an email to all incoming students who have been admitted to College of Engineering for Fall 2021 to invite them to participate in the Engineering Launch program. To increase the appeal of the program, a small scholarship of $200 upon completion of the program was offered in the invitation email. Students who were interested were asked to fill out a Qualtrics screening survey. To identify students who are not ready for Calculus I, the Qualtrics screening survey included questions about ACT scores and student self-assessment of their confidence in the following five areas: Trigonometry, Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and Calculus I. To be chosen, a student must indicate some deficit in at least one of the five areas in their self-assessment. Priority was given to students who have not taken a Calculus course before or had an ACT score below 28, the typical cutoff score being used among engineering programs. Out of 75 students who responded to Qualtrics survey, 30 met the criteria and were selected to participate in the Engineering Launch.

Procedure and Measures: 24 students agreed to enrolled in the Engineering Launch course and they first took a pre-test to assess baseline knowledge and competency in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. They were given an orientation about the online course Engineering Launch and what was expected of them in order to complete the course. Immediately after the conclusion of the course, all participants took a post-test to assess their knowledge and competency in the five areas again. The pre-test and post-test had the same 15 questions; these questions required students to utilize algebra, geometry, and trigonometry skills that are needed to complete certain problems in Calculus I. The test scores ranged from 0 to 30 on each test.

Results: SPSS v. 25 was used for all statistical analyses. Missing data and statistical assumptions were first checked. The pre-test and post-test total scores were calculated. The test scores ranged from 0 to 30 on each test. Descriptive analysis was conducted on both average pre-test score, m = 9.14, SD = 4.05, and post-test score, m = 19.19, SD = 7.02. A paired-sample t-test was conducted to examine the statistical differences of the scores in the pre-test and post-test. The results showed a statistically significant increase in the post-test performance, compared to the pre-test performance, t(20) = 6.97, p < .001, 95% Confidence Interval (0.88, 2.15). The statistical difference indicates a very large effect size, Cohen’s d = 1.68. The findings suggest that the Engineering Launch program made a significant positive impact on students’ readiness before they entered Calculus I in Fall 2021.

Yang, Y., & Betz, A., & Spencer, C. (2022, August), Examining the effectiveness of the Engineering Launch program for first-year engineering students Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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