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How To Provide First Year Students With A Really Good Start Into Their Study Program

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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

11.701.1 - 11.701.12



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Paper Authors


Susanne Wolf Technische Universitaet Darmstadt

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Susanne Wolf graduated as a psychologist from Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, in 2001. From 2002 until now she works at the Didactic Center of Technische Universität Darmstadt. She is currently working on her doctorate which is part of a broad-based research project of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Her interests involve the development, introduction and evaluation of innovative teaching and learning methods as well as quality assurance. She is particularly interested in project-based courses that support the acquirement of soft skills.

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Manfred Hampe Technische Universitaet Darmstadt

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Manfred J. Hampe graduated as chemical engineer from Technische Universitaet Clausthal, Germany, in 1976. He received his PhD from Technische Universitaet Muenchen, Germany, in 1980. He worked at Bayer AG, Leverkusen, Germany, as a process engineer. From 1995 until now he is full professor of Chemical and Process Engineering at Technische Universitaet Darmstadt, Germany. His research interest focusses on mass transfer processes.

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

How to provide first-year students with a really good start to their study program. An innovative and effective approach to the course which includes both active and collaborative learning techniques.


Three factors have motivated reforms in the teaching of engineering in the last few years: the demands of industry, concerned faculty members and also recently by recommendations made in the European “Bologna Process”. The Technische Universität Darmstadt decided to try to meet the requirements of these reforms by introducing an innovative project-based course entitled “Introduction to Mechanical Engineering“. The aim of the course and its new conceptual design is to provide first-year students with an excellent start to the Mechanical and Process Engineering program. This paper wishes to describe and evaluate the course. An analysis of cohort data revealed that students who participated in the course show lower dropout rates and are more likely to graduate than the students who did not participate. The evaluation study focused on the course objectives and teamwork abilities and demonstrates for example that participating students improve their teamwork ability to a much greater extent than do non-participants.

We therefore think that including this project-based course in the program of study will have an important impact on the teaching and learning of mechanical and process engineering. When the course was evaluated, the results demonstrated the benefits of the course very clearly. Participating in the course helps students to develop teamwork abilities and other learning skills of great value to them for further studies and for their professional future.

I. Introduction

Students who leave engineering programs typically do so during or immediately after their first year of study1. If one wishes to keep students in the program, the first year is crucial. A study of dropout rates in 20022 showed for example that the dropout rate for all engineering programs at German universities is on average 40%. There are many studies that deal with the reasons for dropping out of a program. According to a study by Seymour and Hewitt3 dropping out of science, maths and engineering programs is strongly affected by “lack of interest in science” (and engineering) and “poor teaching practices”.

When students of the former Mechanical Engineering program (degree: Diplom) at Technische Universität Darmstadt evaluated their department in 1997 they also criticized similar aspects of their study program4. Faculty members used this opportunity to make

Wolf, S., & Hampe, M. (2006, June), How To Provide First Year Students With A Really Good Start Into Their Study Program Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--750

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