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Filling the Technical Gap: The Integration of Technical Modules in a REU Program for 2+2 Engineering Students

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

2-Year College Division: Workforce Pathways and ATE

Tagged Division

Two-Year College

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Paper Authors


Megan Morin University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

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Megan Patberg Morin is a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University studying Technology and Engineering Education. Megan studied Middle Childhood Education at the University of Dayton and then began her career as a Middle School Teacher at Wake County Public Schools in North Carolina. As her interest in STEM Education grew, she completed her Master's of Education in Technology Education at North Carolina State University before deciding to pursue her Ph.D. She now is the KEEN Program Coordinator at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Her research focuses are on engineering education related to research experiences, underrepresented populations, teaching practices, and community college students.

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Alireza Dayerizadeh North Carolina State University

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Alireza received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of South Florida in 2015. His previous industry experience includes engineering roles at DPR Construction, Jabil, GE Aviation, and Stryker Communications. In the Fall of 2016, Alireza began pursing a PhD in Power Electronics at North Carolina State University. He is a recipient of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department's Merit Fellowship (2016) and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2018). His current research interests include electric vehicle fast chargers and wireless power transfer.

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Due to the abstract nature of the field, electrical engineering students can benefit significantly from active learning to increase understanding and self-efficacy in the field. In some cases, students may lack confidence in their abilities, which can lead them to avoid the engineering field altogether [1]. For this reason, a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program integrated weekly technical modules focused on critical skills to benefit participants, particularly individuals from a community college. The objective was to increase their technical abilities and develop their self-efficacy in engineering and research.

Due to the non-intuitive nature of many electrical engineering concepts, when students engage in hands-on hardware experiments, they increase their interest, confidence, and understanding. Therefore, technical modules were designed to incorporate the foundational knowledge and active learning approaches. The topics covered by the four one-hour technical modules included programming, electrical circuits, electric vehicles, and computer-aided design (CAD). Except for the CAD module, each module required students to participate in a pre and post-survey to assess the impact of the material. All students improved except in the electric vehicle module, which did not have an active learning format.

All topics were selected based on the high-demand skills needed for the workforce. In addition to the four technical modules, there was a half-day power electronics workshop that instructed students on the impact of wide bandgap semiconductors on future power conversion. This workshop went further by instructing students on PCB design, soldering and assembly of a Gallium Nitride based buck converter [2]. Wide bandgap technologies are an emerging and high-demand skill, therefore providing an extraordinary experience. Two-year institute participants’ understanding of wide bandgap technologies increased on their post-assessment by 42% with all REUs from two and four-year institutes demonstrating 100% comprehension.

In addition to technical skill development, self-efficacy in engineering is of equal importance as it contributes to achievement and persistence in engineering majors. The community college REUs self-reported after their 2019 program participation the following: they were confident that they would be enrolled in an engineering major in the next academic year, had confidence to complete any engineering degree, were more confident as researchers and that they could persist in engineering during the current academic year. With the use of e-portfolios, students documented their learning and artifacts to demonstrate their growth and confidence in the skill.

As the current policy aims to boost domestic technical and manufacturing jobs, there will be a need for a workforce with specialized skills such as those gained in this program. As shown, technical labs can be a significant intervention to assist students in transferring from a two-year institution to a four-year institution, particularly in terms of skill development and self-efficacy. Approaches such as this will increase the community college participants’ retention and confidence as a researcher and an engineer to apply these skills in their future courses and careers. The purpose of this study is to identify if there is a potential impact on technical modules for community college students.

Morin, M., & Dayerizadeh, A. (2020, June), Filling the Technical Gap: The Integration of Technical Modules in a REU Program for 2+2 Engineering Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34670

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