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Full Implementation Of A New Format For Freshman Engineering Course At Virginia Tech

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD1 -- Implementing a First-Year Engineering Course

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.657.1 - 11.657.15



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Paper Authors


Jenny Lo Virginia Tech

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Jenny Lo is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She is the co-coordinator of the first semester engineering course and has been involved with educational projects related to freshmen programs, engineering ethics, and undergraduate research.

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Vinod Lohani Virginia Tech

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Vinod Lohani is an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He is the co-coordinator of the first semester engineering course and has been involved in many educational research projects including a departmental level reform implementation and increasing international content and opportunities.

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Odis Griffin Virginia Tech

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O. Hayden Griffin is the head of the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech.

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

Full Implementation of a New Format for Freshmen Engineering Course


This paper documents a continuing shift in one of the largest freshman engineering programs in the country. Fall 2005 implementation of a new format involving one 50-min lesson followed by a 90-min hands on workshop of a freshman engineering course “Engineering Exploration” at Virginia Tech is discussed. The implementation team consisted of seven faculty members and 21 students (graduate and undergraduate). About 1200 students were enrolled. The format was successfully piloted in spring 2005. Examples of new activities include introduction of a systems approach, hands-on engineering experiments for fitting empirical functions, students’ presentations on contemporary issues, discussion of the attributes of “The Engineer of 2020,” learning from seniors’ study abroad experiences, and object oriented approaches for problem solving. In addition, a 5-week sustainable development design project was introduced. With the desire to increase student participation in the large classrooms and determine students’ prior awareness, faculty adopted use of the eInstruction radio frequency response pads (clicker devices). A number of survey tools have been implemented to record students’ experiences. Most of the new activities reflect the implementation of an NSF department level reform (DLR) project focused on a spiral curriculum approach.


At Virginia Tech, all freshman engineering students enter as General Engineering (GE) students and are transferred to a degree-granting department when they have successfully completed a required set of courses. The GE program is conducted by the faculty in the Department of Engineering Education (EngE). The EngE faculty are also developing an active research program in the area of engineering education in collaboration with faculty members from other engineering departments and the School of Education .1 One such collaborative effort, funded under the department-level reform (DLR) program of the NSF, (hereafter referred to as the DLR project) began in September 2004. The goal of DLR project is to reformulate the freshman engineering (i.e., GE program) within EngE and the bioprocess engineering option within the Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) program using a theme-based spiral curriculum approach. The twentieth century psychologist, Jerome Bruner, proposed the concept of the spiral curriculum. Bruner advocates a curriculum that revisits basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them.2 In the proposed reformulation, a theme of sustainability has been selected to provide a contextual framework. The supporting principles of design, ethics, and a systems approach and cross-cutting skills of communication, teamwork, life-long learning, research experience, and lab experience will be woven throughout the curricula.

Lo, J., & Lohani, V., & Griffin, O. (2006, June), Full Implementation Of A New Format For Freshman Engineering Course At Virginia Tech Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--573

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