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First-Year Engineering - Deciding on a Major

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2020 First-Year Engineering Experience


East Lansing, Michigan

Publication Date

July 26, 2020

Start Date

July 26, 2020

End Date

July 28, 2020

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Koenraad E Gieskes State University of New York at Binghamton

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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 was hired on as a full-time lecturer, and in 2017 he became the Assistant Director. In this role, he serves as the engineering lab coordinator for the EDD 111/112 courses. Mr. Gieskes received both his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Binghamton University.

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Michael Elmore State University of New York at Binghamton

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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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First-Year Engineering - Deciding on a Major

At SUNY Binghamton, first-year engineering students have a shared year as Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science majors and do not declare their specific engineering major until later. In order to track interest and assess program impacts, the students are given a survey in the first week of their fall classes. This survey asks just two questions: 1) What is your intended engineering major and 2) How certain are you of your intended major. Typically, about one-half of first-year students indicate that they are very sure of their intended engineering major and the other half is only somewhat sure or not at all sure.

Along with an introduction to general engineering concepts, one of the primary objectives of the introduction to engineering course that the students take in their first semester at SUNY Binghamton is to familiarize them with the engineering majors offered at the university: biomedical, computer, electrical, mechanical, and industrial and systems engineering. Throughout the course students are given lectures, assignments, and laboratories that are representative of the engineering majors offered. The majors are also introduced in many other forms, including: departmental visits, student organization presentations, visits from industry representatives, and visits from engineering based student service offices on campus. The laboratory classes are also instructed by graduate teaching assistants from the different engineering departments.

During the last week of the fall semester, students are required to declare their majors although they are free to change their decision up to the start of their second year. Since the 2014-2015 academic year, the percentage of students who declare an engineering major has ranged between 90.3% and 94.5% (meaning 5.5% - 9.7% of students leave our engineering programs for non-engineering degrees at SUNY Binghamton or leave the university). Of those that declare an engineering major, it is found that some number of students go on to declare a major different from the one they initially indicated.

This paper will present detailed data of the intended major given in the first week of class, the strength of their intention, and their final major declaration. An in-depth description of the methods used to introduce the engineering majors will also be provided. Finally, the authors will provide their insight into the reasons for any changes in intended major from the first week to final week of the semester.

Gieskes, K. E., & Elmore, M. (2020, July), First-Year Engineering - Deciding on a Major Paper presented at 2020 First-Year Engineering Experience, East Lansing, Michigan. 10.18260/1-2--35762

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