June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Computers in Education
24.610.1 - 24.610.11
First Year Engineering Summer SessionRecruiting, teaching, and retaining students in engineering programs are national issues thatcontinue to be addressed in many, varied ways1. A retention program implemented by theUniversity of xxx is designed to improve the retention of high achieving, first year engineeringstudents. Funding for program instruction and materials was provided through NSF EPSCoR, sothere were no costs to the participants.Many students leave engineering without experiencing the excitement of engineering designsince most of the coursework in the first two years is in mathematics and basic sciences. Toprovide an engineering design experience for incoming students, a two week summer program,Exploring Engineering (E2), was initiated in 2012. E2 introduces students to interdisciplinaryengineering topics ranging from robotics to composite materials. The graphical programminglanguage, LabVIEW, which is widely used in engineering curricula, is used to program LEGOMINDSTORM® robots. Robots and the associated programming are intriguing topics for thestudents, providing immediate motivation. The LabVIEW and MINDSTORM combinationprovides immediate, visual, verification of project solutions. The students quickly gain skills andfacility with both tools, using creative approaches to accomplish the various assigned tasks.The students explore instrumentation, sensors, and control using Lego Robots. They also useLabVIEW, in conjunction with the Lego Robots, to investigate material properties and behaviorfor metals, polymers, and composites. Each topic is introduced by a series of short lecturesfollowed by hands-on interactive laboratory sessions. At the culmination of the program, thestudents are assigned an open ended design project.An accompanying thread for the program is enhancement of critical thinking skills. Basicconcepts of the affective and cognitive principles and strategies essential to critical thinking areintroduced to the students and reinforced in workshop activities.As a result of strong teaming experiences in the workshops, the students work more effectivelyand collaboratively in their coursework. The students also interact one-on-one withundergraduate and graduate engineering students who share their enthusiasm for engineering.These relationships continue into the academic year, providing a support community for the newstudents.Highly motivated, inquisitive incoming freshmen were identified for the program, based on ACTscores, high school GPAs and completed high school coursework (math, chemistry, and physics).Acceptance to the E2 program is based on academic achievement and interest. About 25% ofeach freshman class (approximately 60 students per year) have been invited to participate; 12students attended the first year and 14 attended this past summer. Due to cost constraints, theprogram does not include a residential component which would predict that most of the1 Rising Above the Gathering Storm Two Years Later, Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy,National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, National AcademiesPress, Washington D.C. , 2009.participants would be from the local area. However, half of the participants reside outside thelocal area; they either moved into their assigned rooms on campus or stayed with relatives.Results are extremely positive, with both faculty and students highly satisfied with programactivities. Participants are genuinely excited about learning new things – and they are able toquickly pick up concepts. Critical thinking skills are assessed prior to workshop activities andagain following the activities. An average 10% gain in critical thinking skills was observed. Themaximum increase was more than 30%, for an underrepresented minority student. This suggeststhat these types of activities may be quite successful for underrepresented populations; thishypothesis will be investigated further.The program has greatly impacted the retention of freshmen students. Over 90% of the E2participants remain in STEM majors at the university. The other non attendees in the upper 25%serve as a control group. In this group, 15% have changed majors within engineering, 10% havechanged to non-STEM majors, and 12% have left the institution. Hence, nearly 25% of similarlyprepared incoming engineering students have left STEM fields in the first year, compared to only10% of the E2 participants. Obviously E2 participants are much more committed to careers inengineering than their peers.
Steadman, S. J., & Jefferson, G. D., & Thomas, T. G., & Hsiao, K. (2014, June), First-Year Engineering Summer Session Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/20501
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