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First Year Engineering Design: Incorporating Leadership Development Into Real Project Experiences

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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

Implementing the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge into Courses and Curricula

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.749.1 - 12.749.12



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Paper Authors

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Kevin Sutterer Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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James Hanson Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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John Aidoo Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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

First Year Engineering Design: Incorporating Leadership Development into Real Project Experiences


First year (freshman) engineering students often arrive on campus eager to begin designing engineered systems. Although their engineering design expertise is not nearly developed, the students themselves are often ready to begin. Some engineering student attrition can be attributed to students’ disappointment with typical first and second year curricula rich in math, science, and humanities course work, but featuring only a course or two with direct engineering emphasis. The Department of Civil Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology offers a 10 week course in which teams of four first year students complete a real engineering design for external clients. Projects are solicited from the region, selected based on student capabilities and workload, and mentored by the entire department faculty. The student teams interact directly with the client and produce a substantial final report comparable to a feasibility study and preliminary design. Example designs include bicycle trails, independent wastewater treatment systems, parks, athletic fields, and handicap access retrofits.

ASCE Policy Statement 465 calls for leadership training of civil engineering students. First year students are well suited for training on leadership, teaming, and professionalism. In the Department of Civil Engineering at Rose-Hulman, one aspect of leadership and teamwork training is Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989). Application of the Seven Habits infiltrates the curriculum in various courses. Growth of students along Covey’s maturity continuum would be comparable to leadership development as the students are motivated to seek interdependence. Over the past three years, Covey’s Seven Habits have been incorporated into the weekly activities for student teams working on projects in this first year course. Student acceptance of the Seven Habits as a framework for self-improvement was mixed for the first few years. However, modification of the lessons to integrate application of the Habits to help the students with their client and group interaction has proven more successful. Assessment of perceived learning and development for this study through course surveys, course evaluations, and interviews indicates more students are embracing the Seven Habits as one tool to enhance their development as civil engineers. Even so, despite student acceptance of the Seven Habits as a useful framework, students reported they were not necessarily applying the principles to their lives.

This leadership and teamwork training continues to evolve in the first year course. Future improvements will include learning modules designed to demonstrate application of the Seven Habits to engineering consulting and design. This paper summarizes only the freshman year component of leadership training being designed to infiltrate the curriculum in the department.

Sutterer, K., & Hanson, J., & Aidoo, J. (2007, June), First Year Engineering Design: Incorporating Leadership Development Into Real Project Experiences Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2829

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