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Facilitating Learning With a Project-based Curriculum that Engages First-year Engineering Students

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 8: Project-based Learning and Cornerstone Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.751.1 - 26.751.13



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Paper Authors


Mike Elmore Binghamton University

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Dr. Mike Elmore is director of and a visiting associate professor in the Engineering Design Division in the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science at Binghamton University, State University of New York at Binghamton, NY. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Vermont in Burlington, VT, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY, and a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Binghamton University. He has worked for Lockheed Martin, IBM, General Electric, BAE Systems, and Celestica Corporation. He has 25 years of experience in these companies designing military and commercial power electronic circuits and as a systems engineer for airborne and land vehicle electrical systems. He is a licensed professional engineer. He also received a B.A in philosophy and a M.Ed. from the University of Vermont. Before becoming an engineer he was a high school mathematics teacher.

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Sharon B Fellows Binghamton University

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Assistant Director, Engineering Design Division, Freshman Engineering Program

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Koenraad E Gieskes Binghamton University

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Koen Gieskes first joined the Engineering Design Division at Binghamton University as a graduate student in 2004, then, in 2009, he became a full-time lecturer. In this role, he serves as the engineering lab coordinator for the WTSN 111/112 courses. Mr. Gieskes received both his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Binghamton University and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Binghamton University.

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Lee A Cummings Binghamton University

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Lee A. Cummings was appointed as the Subject Librarian for Engineering at Binghamton University in August of 2012. Prior to obtaining his Master's in Library and Information Science (M.L.I.S.) from Wayne State University, he obtained his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Toledo. His professional experience also includes work in project management, manufacturing, and supply chain operations.

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Facilitating Learning With a Project-Based Curriculum That Engages 1st-Year Engineering StudentsMuch research has been done about the many forms in which learning takes place in theengineering classroom, specifically teaching strategies that are designed to engage the learner. Inthe 1st-year engineering program’s required core courses, engagement becomes crucial if studentsare to remain in engineering. Retention, as the current mass of research shows, is a major goal of1st-year programs. Retention becomes more complicated when issues relating to the transition fromhigh school to college are considered in the design of curricula that engage. Faculty who designcurricula and teach in first-year programs must possess the ability to evaluate, be creative, knowwhat is relevant and necessary and then be able to apply and present this knowledge in an engagingmanner. 1st-year engineering program faculty have found that when facilitated student learning isthe focus, students are engaged, resulting in motivation to succeed and increased retention rates.In components of 1st-year core courses, activities are created that generate inquiry through project-based learning. This approach has proven to enhance the classroom experience and retain 1st-yearengineering students.Several experiments in the design project in the spring semesters of 2013 and 2014 were tested:an increase in team size, instruction in the development and writing of project requirements, pairswithin teams researching alternative solution designs, and a culminating exposition in the form ofa competition. The project was designed to promote inquiry-based learning as students developedthe necessary transition skills through project management to succeed in their first year andsubsequently, beyond into their careers. Retention was improved over previous years andanecdotal responses from students were significantly more positive about the teaming process andinvolvement and commitment to the project. Faculty reported weekly that the teams and projectswere progressing much better than in previous years. The project for spring 2015 includes changesbased on student and faculty input from spring 2013 and 2014.This paper describes a semester long 1st-year engineering conceptual design project that engagesstudents in the design process in a way that allows them to experience being engineers and placesthe faculty member in the role of facilitator. The focus is on the engineering communicationscomponent of the linked, integrated core course, though changes incorporated by the engineeringdesign and analysis component that impacts both sides will be discussed. Retention of students inthe spring 2015 semester will be tracked, and surveys administered at key points in the project thatare designed to query students’ level of engagement in the project and their responses to the teacheras facilitator in the classroom will be administered. A description of the design project, the changesmade in the spring 2015 and semester based on the student and faculty feedback from spring 2013and 2014, and the results of data collected throughout the 2015 spring semester will be reported.

Elmore, M., & Fellows, S. B., & Gieskes, K. E., & Cummings, L. A. (2015, June), Facilitating Learning With a Project-based Curriculum that Engages First-year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24088

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: © 2015 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