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Implementing First-Year Design Projects with the Power of Choice

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

FPD 1: Projects and Teamwork in First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.708.1 - 23.708.14



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Paper Authors


Thomas Shepard University of St. Thomas

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Thomas Shepard is a Clinical Professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He teaches courses in the thermal/fluid sciences, introduction to engineering for electrical and mechanical engineers, energy and the environment, and engineering for K-12 teachers. Dr. Shepard has research interests in experimental fluid mechanics, engineering education, energy conversion and engineering outreach.

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Implementing First-Year Design Projects with the Power of ChoiceAbstract: Coming into college many first year students may only have a sense for what anengineer does. In the process of helping them gain a better understanding of engineering it iscritical to keep the students engaged and interested so as to maintain retention. These objectivescan be difficult to satisfy simultaneously as the material and projects are typically dictated by theinstructor who simply cannot appeal to the interests of all the students with a single activity.This paper presents the re-design of an introduction to engineering lab course at a private urbaninstitution in the Midwest. In the lab portion of the course students were provided with a menuof three design projects, asked to rate their interest in the three projects, and split into smallteams according to these ratings. In a given semester the three projects centered on a theme suchas water balloon launching technology or small vehicle technology. The average interest ratingfor all projects was rated as 3.6 on the Likert scale while the average interest rating of the projectthat each student actually worked on was rated as 4.7. It is concluded that by simply offering afew choices students will be able to work on a project in which they have significantly moreinterest. Follow-up survey results further reveal that students do feel that it is important thatcourse material overlaps with their interests (4.3 Likert rating) while their typical courses onlymarginally overlap with their interests (3.2 Likert rating). This paper provides an overview ofthe various projects, detailed results from the student ratings, student and instructor feedback onthe specific projects and survey results used to gage how well the project menu appealed tostudents’ interests.

Shepard, T. (2013, June), Implementing First-Year Design Projects with the Power of Choice Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19722

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