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Fostering Creative Thinking In Freshman Engineering

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.220.1 - 1.220.4



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Paper Authors

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James F. McDonough

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Bruce Harding

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

I Session 3515 .—.

Fostering Creative Thinking in Freshman Engineering

James F. McDonough, Bruce A. Harding University of Cincinnati/Purdue University

Is it possible to successfully implement a design project in the first ten weeks of the first quarter of the freshman year of an engineering program? If it is possible, will it have any effect on the attitude of the students towards the engineering program? The following is a discussion of a program developed for freshman at the University of Cincinnati.

The University College of Engineering is a mandatory co-op program, the first of its kind in the nation. The students are accepted into a specific engineering discipline during the application process. The college contains six departments with ten undergraduate majors. Since students are accepted into a specific program it is possible to identify the Civil Engineering students from the very start of the freshman year. During that first year and prior to the introduction of the Introduction to Engineering class the college had little contact with Engineering freshman, and the departments had no contact with their own majors until the second year.

Difficulty in student retention in the first year of engineering has been well documented. The problem of retention is compounded when future class sizes are projected based on the number of freshman. Retention then becomes the unknown variable. In recent years there has also been a decline in the number of highly qualified high school students entering engineering programs. This decline has made it all the more important to retain those students in the college and hopeful in the program they originally selected.

Although it is possible to change majors after the freshmen year, at UC, a 3.0/4.0 quality point average is required to ensure transfer. Unfortunately this means that those who might decide to transfer programs within the college are among the best of the students. Thus given the need to retain the high quality students and the practicality of maintaining student head count during a period of reduced funding, it was decided to make a frontal assault on the problem.

A course entitled introduction to Engineering was established. This course is taught in the Autumn quarter of the freshman year. At the beginning of its life it was taught to a section of all 500 of the freshman class, with small breakout sections of students meeting several time during the quarter. The breakout sections were focused on the specific majors.

As is often the case there was no readily available faculty to teach the course. The responsibility was delegated to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs who took the lead in developing and managing the course. Other faculty were used when they could be persuaded to help on a volunteer basis. The original form of this course left a lot to be desired as the students did not get much out of the massive meetings. They did like the smaller gatherings, but overall the course needed more personal contact between students and faculty.

It was about this time that that professor Harding joined the college office while of sabbatical from Purdue University. He brought a fresh approach to the course when he volunteered to lead a small section of the few undecided students from the pre-engineering program housed in the Arts and Science college. He had taught the same concepts at Purdue, although not to students at the very start of their programs.

- %iiii’ ) 1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings ~jlllyly

McDonough, J. F., & Harding, B. (1996, June), Fostering Creative Thinking In Freshman Engineering Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6061

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