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Improving Freshman Retention Through An Introduction To Engineering Design Course

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.564.1 - 6.564.8

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Paper Authors

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Ronald Roth

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

Session 2553

Improving Freshman Retention Through an Introduction to Engineering Design Course

Ronald Roth Department of Mechanical Engineering and Manufacturing California State University, Chico


A freshman engineering design course at California State University, Chico is described. The primary motivation for creating the course was to encourage students to continue their study of Mechanical Engineering. The course appears to have significantly decreased the attrition of Mechanical Engineering majors. To date 79% of the freshman Mechanical Engineering majors who have taken the course have become sophomore Mechanical Engineering majors and 21% have changed majors or left California State University, Chico before becoming sophomores. The history leading to the design of the course as well as the course’s objectives, structure and requirements are described. The course involves teams of students designing, building and testing devices that participate in competitions. Examples of these projects are discussed.

The Problem

Following increasing enrollment in Mechanical Engineering (ME) at California State University, Chico (CSUC) in the early 1980s, the enrollment began to decline (see Fig. 1). This decline was perceived by the faculty to be a problem. The one-year attrition rate of fall first-time freshmen ME majors at CSUC from 1973 to 1990 was 50%, i.e., 50% of fall first-time freshmen who had declared their major to be ME changed their major or were not at CSUC one year later. The solution discussed here was intended to increase enrollment by reducing attrition.



250 Students





0 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 Year

Figure 1: Fall enrollment in Mechanical Engineering at CSUC

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Roth, R. (2001, June), Improving Freshman Retention Through An Introduction To Engineering Design Course Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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