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Improving Retention By Implementing Outcome Based Design Experience In A Sophomore Course

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovations in Mechanical Engineering Education Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.859.1 - 12.859.10



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Paper Authors


S. Perwez Kalim Wilkes University

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S. Perwez Kalim
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Wilkes University, Wilkes Barre, PA 18766

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

Improving Retention by Implementing Outcome Based Design Experience in a Sophomore Course


The student retention in the private institutions is, in general, a difficult problem to handle and even more difficult to manage in the engineering programs. This study reports how the reorganization of a sophomore level thermodynamics course addresses these issues. The main objectives of this effort are to expand the boundaries of students’ knowledge by engaging them with the planning, design, build, and test concepts. The process included the reorientation of theory taught in the class and required an active student participation in a special design project. The whole idea was to incorporate a hands-on design project and other pedagogical changes to transform the student’s learning into a pleasant and fulfilling experience. The project was successfully completed for the first time in the spring of 2005. The students associated with this approach were divided into several groups, where each group was assigned to develop a Stirling engine based on their research and design. At the end of the semester the students participated in a design competition where they were graded on the basis of multiple of factors such as, simplicity of the design, application, cost, and creativity etc. This endeavor implemented an outcome-based, meaningful design experience early in the curriculum, with the intention of improving the retention efforts in the mechanical engineering program. The course assessment revealed that the students enjoyed the experience, generated a high level of interest and enthusiasm, and preliminary data indicate that the effort has helped in improving the student retention.


In general, student retention in private colleges and universities is a difficult problem to reckon with, especially more so in engineering programs. It has been reported that, on average, forty percent of students leave engineering before graduation1. Unfortunately, the competition among admission representatives creates a “push-pull system”, which often generates lower admission standards and as a result it worsens the retention problem further. There are many other reasons for student attrition which include, first and foremost, their own intention and commitment, the pedagogical support, high school preparation and the curriculum design. Students, who show persistence, determination, and devotion to accomplishing a clear career goal, tend to do better in the engineering program. After examining several engineering curricula, it was observed that the sophomore year course load often appeared more demanding than the course load of other years in the curriculum. This was noticeable in our curriculum as well, where students suffered from sharply decreased self-esteem and enthusiasm. It was also to some extent apparent from their course work and examination preparedness. Table 1 shows the Wilkes University’s Mechanical Engineering curriculum. In this course structure the first truly relevant mechanical engineering course the students are exposed to is thermodynamics, which was also offered at the sophomore level. Previous outcome based analysis indicated that students struggled in this course and other math courses as they endured a high degree of difficulty and suffered from lack of interest. The students were unable to determine the purpose for taking these

Kalim, S. P. (2007, June), Improving Retention By Implementing Outcome Based Design Experience In A Sophomore Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1783

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