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First-Year Engineering Summer Session

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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

Computing in the First Year

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.610.1 - 24.610.11



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Paper Authors


Sally J. Steadman University of South Alabama

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Dr. Steadman received a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Wyoming in 1969, an M.A. in mathematics from the University of Denver in 1973, and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Wyoming in 1994. She served on the UW faculty from 1984 - 2003, where she made use of her interest in engineering computer applications. She is a part-time instructor at the University of South Alabama, where she is also a faculty adviser for Tau Beta Pi and for the Mortar Board Senior Honor Society. Dr. Steadman is a past national president of Mortar Board.

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Gail D. Jefferson University of South Alabama

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Dr. Gail D. Jefferson earned a B.S. in mathematics from Spelman College in 1997, a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1997, an M.S. in biomedical engineering from Ohio State University in 2003, and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Florida A&M University in 2005. She served as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Aerospace, developing models and test methods to examine the behavior of advanced non-metallic, nanostructured material systems. Dr. Jefferson is currently an assistant professor at the University of South Alabama, where she is also the faculty adviser for the U.S.A. Launch Society and the National Society of Black Engineers.

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Tom G. Thomas University of South Alabama

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Dr. Tom G. Thomas completed the requirements for a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama, Huntsville in 1997 and joined the faculty at the University of South Alabama in August, 1998. His research interests include image processing, environmental monitoring, robotics, and engineering student outreach. Dr. Thomas is a registered professional engineer in the state of Alabama and currently serves as the graduate program director for the University of South Alabama College of Engineering.

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Kuang-Ting Hsiao University of South Alabama

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Dr. Kuang-Ting Hsiao, University of South Alabama, received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware in 2000. He joined the Center for Composite Materials at the University of Delaware as a research associate and worked on projects funded by ONR and NSF. Dr. Hsiao moved to the University of South Alabama in 2003 and is currently an associate professor of mechanical engineering and a faculty adviser of the Pi Tau Sigma mechanical engineering honor society. His current research projects in multi-scaled composites, nanocomposites, and nano-enhanced phase change materials at the University of South Alabama are funded by NASA, NSF, DOE, and Alabama EPSCoR. Dr. Hsiao has published more than 70 journal and conference papers, six book chapters, and a book in his research areas.

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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. 10.18260/1-2--20501

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