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Explicit Development Of Engineering Skills And Characteristics In The Freshman Year

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

FPD2 -- Highlighting First-Year Programs

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.720.1 - 12.720.12



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Paper Authors


Joseph Schimmels Marquette University

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Dr. Schimmels is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Marquette University. In 1981, he obtained a BS degree in mechanical engineering from Marquette University. He worked as a reservoir engineer at Exxon Production Research Company in Houston, TX from 1981 to 1987. He then obtained MS and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University in 1988 and 1991, respectively. In 2003, Dr. Schimmels was awarded the Lafferty Endowed Professorship in Engineering Pedagogy at Marquette. Since then he has been working toward the development a new integrated curriculum emphasizing the progressive development of design and communication skills and personal characteristics associated with good teamwork and effective leadership.

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

Explicit Development of Engineering Skills and Characteristics in the Freshman Year


This paper describes a new freshman two-course sequence designed to introduce students to engineering and to explicitly develop the cognitive skills and personal characteristics of an experienced engineer. The courses focus on engineering skills associated with design and communication and on personal characteristics associated with good teamwork and effective leadership. Small group discussion related to course readings are used to increase student understanding of abstract engineering concepts. Design projects are used to facilitate student transfer of their understanding to new contexts.

The course sequence has been piloted in the Mechanical Engineering program and was shown to be quite successful with regard to student achievement and student satisfaction. Plans are being made for college-wide implementation of a similar freshman experience emphasizing skill and personal characteristic development.

1.0 Introduction

The issues of engineering student engagement and persistence and institutional retention and attrition are important from a societal standpoint1,2 and are addressed in many current engineering education publications3,4,5,6. An initiative to address these issues (the College Core Curriculum Task Force) was established in 2003 at Marquette University. This initiative was directed toward the design of a new college-wide core curriculum focused on the “transformation” of student learning. This paper describes one of the primary outcomes from this initiative – the design and implementation of a new freshman year experience.

Early in the design process, students, alumni, faculty, and administrators were interviewed to determine the institution-specific meaning of the term “transformational” when referring to an engineering curriculum. The summary of the interview results is listed below. The engineering curriculum will provide: o opportunities for professional and personal interaction with caring faculty o opportunities to interact with professionals in their field o opportunities for independent learning o opportunities for active learning o clear integration between math, science, engineering, and computers o opportunities for clearly developing skills associated with design, communication, and teamwork o opportunities for clearly developing the personal characteristics associated with good teamwork and effective leadership o opportunities for effective evaluation of individual student progress

The task force made specific recommendations with respect to ways in which these curricular objectives could be achieved. One recommendation was to redesign the existing freshman

Schimmels, J. (2007, June), Explicit Development Of Engineering Skills And Characteristics In The Freshman Year Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2515

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