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Experiences With A Freshman Engineering Problem Solving And Reasoning Course

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.278.1 - 3.278.8

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Paper Authors

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S. Cem Karacal

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John A. Barker

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Jacob Van Roekel

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

Session 2553

Experiences with A Freshman Engineering Problem Solving and Reasoning Course

S. Cem Karacal, John A. Barker, Jacob Van Roekel Mech.& Ind. Eng./ Philosophical Studies/ Mech. & Ind. Eng. Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, IL 62026


This paper describes our experiences with a new freshman-level engineering problem solving course jointly designed by the School of Engineering and the Department of Philosophical Studies. The main objective of the course is to incorporate critical thinking skills into the scientific problem solving method. It has the additional objective of enhancing skills in communication, teamwork, technical writing, and personal development. Experimental offerings of the course have produced encouraging results. In this paper we will report on our experiences with the course, which has now become an established course in the engineering curriculum.


The School of Engineering at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE) has been experiencing retention problems similar to other engineering schools in the nation. The engineering students typically have no contact with engineering faculty and subject matter until their junior year. Preliminary studies on SIUE engineering students indicated that most of the retention problems are encountered during the basic science and general education courses. The main reasons for this appear to be the dearth of faculty-student contact during the students’ first two years, and the lack of exposure to basic engineering concepts and problem solving methods. As a result, the students fail to see the link between the basic courses and engineering, and are not highly motivated to overcome the hardships of the first two years. This course is designed to create a lasting interest in engineering and to enhance essential skills and personal development.

The course is offered to first year engineering students on an optional basis. The students in the course are given the opportunity to take a critical thinking proficiency exam administered by the Philosophical Studies Department. If they pass, they receive academic credit for the department’s Critical Thinking course, which satisfies one of the general education course requirements.

In this paper we will report on our findings with the first two experimental offerings of the course, which have produced encouraging results in terms of student achievements and student assessments of the course. The paper will also provide information on course content and format, along with an analysis of student evaluations of the course.

Karacal, S. C., & Barker, J. A., & Van Roekel, J. (1998, June), Experiences With A Freshman Engineering Problem Solving And Reasoning Course Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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