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First-Year Engineering Courses' Effect on Retention and Student Engagement

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

FPD 3: Retention

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.608.1 - 24.608.10



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Paper Authors

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Gregory Warren Bucks University of Cincinnati


Kathleen A. Ossman University of Cincinnati

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Dr. Kathleen Ossman is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Cincinnati. She teaches courses to freshmen engineering students that require the application of mathematics and physics to solving applied problems from a variety of engineering disciplines and utilize MATLAB for solving computationally intensive problems and analyzing data. She earned a BSEE and MSEE from Georgia Tech in 1982 and a Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1986. She is a member of IEEE and ASEE.

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Jeff Kastner University of Cincinnati

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Jeff Kastner is an Assistant Professor Educator in the Department of Engineering Education at the University of Cincinnati. He currently teaches the freshmen engineering courses to all engineering students at UC.

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F. James Boerio University of Cincinnati

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F. James Boerio is Professor of Materials Science and Head of the Department of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) at the University of Cincinnati. He has received numerous awards for his work in engineering education, including the CEAS Engineering Tribunal “Professor of the Quarter” for the Winter Quarter, 2003; Engineering Tribunal "Professor of the Year" for 2002-03; and the CEAS “Dean’s Award for Educational Innovation" in 2001. Professor Boerio has authored approximately 225 papers; he received the award "Best Paper - Original Contribution," at the 152nd Meeting of the ACS Rubber Division in 1997.

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Joni A. Torsella University of Cincinnati

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First-Year Engineering Courses Effect on Retention and Student EngagementDue to a drop in the number of students enrolling and persisting in engineering programs, thereis currently a lack of qualified engineering graduates, which jeopardizes both the health of theU.S. economy and the security of the nation. This issue has led to the development andimplementation of a variety of first-year engineering experiences designed to recruit morestudents to engineering and to retain them once they have chosen to pursue a degree inengineering. At a large university in the mid-west, three common courses were introducedduring the 2012-2013 school year to provide first-year students with hands-on experiences inengineering and a link between engineering and the required mathematics and science courses.The first course, Engineering Foundations, introduces students to the types of activities engineersperform and provides information on the engineering degree programs available at theuniversity. Students are introduced to several engineering disciplines by completing four hands-on experiments. The course also emphasizes technical writing, oral presentation skills, theengineering design process, teamwork, and engineering ethics. The other two courses,Engineering Models I and II, form a two-semester sequence. These courses introduce students tothe computation software package, MATLAB®, and show how it can be used as a tool forsolving engineering problems. In addition, the courses provide engineering context andapplications for the material that students are learning in their first-year math and sciencecourses. All three courses include a team project.The paper will include a description of the first-year courses and provide detailed informationabout the hands-on experiments and the computing assignments that link engineeringapplications to topics in math and science courses. Lessons learned during the first offerings ofthe courses and changes made to the courses in response to student and faculty feedback will alsobe discussed. For example, new experiments using a data acquisition device (DAQ) have beendeveloped for all three courses to enable students to visualize how a software program can beused both to control hardware and monitor a physical system by acquiring sensor data. Also, inan effort to make the courses relevant to all of the engineering disciplines, additional computingproblems applicable to previously underrepresented engineering disciplines were developed forEngineering Models I.In order to assess the effectiveness of these courses, first-year retention data and performance infirst-year math and science courses will be compared to retention and performance from previousyears. Student engagement will be assessed through on-line surveys that are administered at theend of each course. The survey results from the first offering of the courses showed that studentspreferred the open-ended portions of the Models and Foundations classes and appreciated theconnections to mathematics concepts. These results show that reaching out to first-yearengineering students by giving them engineering problems to solve can have a positive impact ontheir first-year experience. Data from the survey will be presented in the paper to further supportthese conclusions.

Bucks, G. W., & Ossman, K. A., & Kastner, J., & Boerio, F. J., & Torsella, J. A. (2014, June), First-Year Engineering Courses' Effect on Retention and Student Engagement Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20499

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