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Implementation and Assessment of Case Studies in a Freshman Engineering Program

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.806.1 - 22.806.18



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Paper Authors


James E. Lewis University of Louisville

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James E. Lewis, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals in the J. B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville. His research interests include parallel and distributed computer systems, cryptography, engineering education, undergraduate retention and technology (Tablet PCs) used in the classroom.

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Patricia A. Ralston University of Louisville

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Dr. Ralston is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals
and an Associate in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Louisville. As Chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, she supervises faculty and staff who teach introductory engineering and undergraduate engineering mathematics courses, advise entering freshmen, and coordinate outreach programs that promote engineering as a profession to elementary, middle, and high school students. Her fields of expertise include process modeling, simulation, and control with a specific interest in monitoring and fault detection. Her recent research has been as a collaborator on the security of SCADA systems.

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Norb Delatte Cleveland State University Orcid 16x16

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Norbert Delatte is Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cleveland State University.

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David Wheatley University of Louisville

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Implementation and Assessment of Case Studies in a Freshman Engineering ProgramAbstractThis paper reports on work carried out on a project to extend the work of implementing andassessing case studies to twelve university partners and broaden the scope to cover allengineering disciplines, as well as the NSF Materials Digital Library. The paper focuses onwork carried out by the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at the University of X, wherecase studies are used in their first year course titled Introduction to Engineering.Case studies require students to synthesize the facts and engineering principles they havelearned, and combine them with their broader education in the arts, humanities, and sciences.Case studies tie together technical, ethical, and procedural aspects of engineering and requirestudents to undertake higher order thinking in order to synthesize the relevant issues. As a result,the case studies integrate ethics and procedural/professional issues into courses. In the case of afirst year course, case studies also introduce the engineering profession.Case studies used in this first year course include some basic design case studies regarding localfailure and design investigations, such as damage due to blasting and problems with tunneling.More involved studies include the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse and the problems with theHubble Space Telescope and the engineering of the subsequent repairs.After the case study covering the collapse of the Hyatt Regency walkways in Kansas City,Missouri, in July 1981, where 114 people were killed, the students participate in a mock trial ofthe Professional Engineering Licensure Board involving the aftermath of this catastrophe.Groups of students are assigned to take the role of the engineer, contractor, etc., and must defendthose positions. Case studies such as the Hyatt Regency collapse can reinforce the importance ofprofessional licensure by illustrating the responsibilities of the Engineer of Record.As a result of case study inclusion, students demonstrate an ability to process situation analysis,apply ethics in engineering, and demonstrate an understanding of the engineer’s role in and valueto society. With continued use of case studies in future courses, students will also demonstrate agreater depth of knowledge by developing intuition about expected behavior of engineeredsystems, understanding load paths, and better visualizing the interaction of components ofengineered systems. Finally, students should experience a change in attitudes about qualityengineering as a result of studying failures of engineered systems.It is anticipated that the use of case studies with first-year students will increase retention,facilitate career choices, and emphasize the common ground of practice among students invarious engineering disciplines. Student surveys and performance are being recorded todetermine the effects of using case studies with first year students.

Lewis, J. E., & Ralston, P. A., & Delatte, N., & Wheatley, D. (2011, June), Implementation and Assessment of Case Studies in a Freshman Engineering Program Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18087

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