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First-Year Engineering Students and Factors in Their Selection of a Major

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Michael Elmore P.E. 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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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. In 2019, he received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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First-year engineering students often are unsure which field of engineering they want to pursue. To track the impact of the first-year engineering program, students at *university* have been asked to complete a two-question survey in the first week of classes regarding their intended engineering major. The two, multiple choice questions are: 1) What is your intended engineering major? And 2) how sure are you of your decision? Responses have shown that about half of the 1st-year engineering students express some uncertainty in their intended choice of engineering major. They indicate that they are either undecided, very unsure, unsure, or neither sure nor unsure of the strength of their engineering major interest.

Out of programs that offer a combined first-year experience for engineering students, many do not require that students declare their major until the end of the first year or even second year of study. Until recently, *university* students have declared their engineering major at the end of their second semester of study. Now, the declaration of major is done at the end of the first semester, although students are informed that they can still change their selection with no penalty until the start of their second year. The fall semester of engineering courses introduce students to the engineering majors offered at *university*. There are guest lecturers from the engineering departments and industry. And the engineering lectures, laboratories, and student projects represent all the engineering majors. These educational experiences are designed to give students a better understanding of the engineering majors, so that they can make a more informed decision, when they declare their major.

The present study compares the intended engineering major of 1st-year engineering students in the first week of the fall semester to their actual declaration of major. This study began in the 2015/2016 academic year with an anonymous survey each fall semester. The survey was not anonymous in the current 2020/2021 academic year for the first time. The authors wanted to better understand the correlation between the responses in the survey and the student’s eventual choice of major. A follow up non-anonymous survey will be given when students declare their majors at the end of the fall 2020 semester in an attempt to understand what factors might have influenced their decision. Results and the authors conclusions will be presented in the final paper.

Elmore, M., & Gieskes, K. E. (2021, July), First-Year Engineering Students and Factors in Their Selection of a Major Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37195

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