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Getting To Know Your Engineering Major

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.597.1 - 8.597.8



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Paper Authors

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Anita Mahadevan-Jansen

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Christopher Rowe

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

Session 2793

Getting to know your engineering major Christopher J. Rowe, Anita Mahadevan-Jansen Vanderbilt University


The first semester in engineering education is arguably the most important in laying the fundamental groundwork and preparing students for advanced study in their choice of engineering major. An estimated 40% of entering freshmen are uncertain as to their choice of major. Students are typically required to declare their engineering major as freshmen. The burden and the goal of this project then is to educate students about engineering and about their specific major so that they can make an informed decision. Thus, a new freshman program is being established to address these concerns both in and out of the classroom. These efforts are being implemented in conjunction with the redesign of the introductory engineering course (ES 130) offered at Vanderbilt University from a skills-based approach to a problem-solving approach.

An integral part of the introductory engineering course is a semester long project. In order to (a) familiarize the freshman with the different engineering majors and (b) incorporate the engineering design process into the curriculum, discipline-specific engineering design projects have been implemented into the freshman Engineering course. The discipline-specific projects allow students to work in small teams of 3-5 on an engineering problem in their selected major. Each of the projects is sponsored by a faculty member who has volunteered to serve as a guide for the project; this additionally facilitates one-on-one student-faculty interaction. This new paradigm is compared to the discipline-aspecific projects implemented in the freshman course this far and analyzed in conjunction with student feedback on confidence in choice of major and engineering design-based problem-solving skill.

To further bring the various engineering majors to life for the freshmen outside the classroom, a series of weekly panel discussions were held for each degree program in the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University. Each panel consisted of an engineering alumni practicing in the chosen field, a faculty member, a graduate student and an undergraduate student. Preliminary results indicate a heightened interest in these panels and positive response to these activities by all students, not just freshmen.

The Problem

Studying engineering is unique in that it is a true 4-year professional degree. Most engineering programs tend to be well structured especially in the first two years, forcing the declaration of a major discipline within engineering fairly early in the curriculum. A primary problem with this requirement is that students are asked to make this decision before they have Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Mahadevan-Jansen, A., & Rowe, C. (2003, June), Getting To Know Your Engineering Major Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12007

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