Asee peer logo

Improving Retention in Entry-Level Engineering Education by Adding Hands-On Courses of Clinics of Engineering in the First Year of Study

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Reza Kamali California State University San Marcos

visit author page

Dr. Reza Kamali-Sarvestani is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at California State University San Marcos. He received his B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Shiraz University Iran, and M.S.E, Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2009, and 2011 respectively. He worke at Rowan University and Utah Valley University before. Dr. Kamali’s work is supported by funding from National Science Foundation and local/international companies. He is a member of IEEE and ASEE.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Retention is one of the greatest ongoing challenges in STEM education, particularly in lower-division engineering students. A 2012 study showed that 40-50% of students drop out of engineering programs in their first two years of study [1]. The challenge is exacerbated among underrepresented students, who are less likely to enroll in engineering majors and less likely to persist when they do [2]. According to Geisinger and Raman (2013), who surveyed literature in the field, a significant proportion of engineering students leave because the engineering educational system has failed to 1) show them that the engineering endeavor is profoundly human, 2) make relevant the key scientific, mathematical, and engineering principles needed for mastery of engineering, 3) show that engineering is within reach of their abilities, 4) capture their imagination and fascination, and 4) provide a welcoming atmosphere. They concluded that six broad factors drive students to leave engineering: classroom and academic climate, grades and conceptual understanding, self-efficacy and self-confidence, high school preparation, interest and career goals, and race and gender. They also noted that studies suggest that retention can be increased by addressing one or more of these factors [2]. In order to address the factors that persistently cause so many students to leave engineering, and to develop a lower-division curriculum that will engage and retain electrical engineering majors, particularly those from underrepresented groups, California State University San Marcos, in partnership with two of its feeder community colleges—Mira Costa College and Palomar College—proposes to implement this study to improve retention. This paper will address two of the retention issues that Geisinger and Raman noted—classroom and academic climate and interest and career goals—by creating a sequence of lectures to connect the classroom topics into real world applications in three hybrid lower-division electrical engineering courses for students at CSUSM and the partner community colleges. The new courses will seek to change students’ perspective about engineering and help create a more inclusive environment by improving the existing Introduction to Electrical Engineering course and developing two new courses: Electrical Engineering Clinics I and II. In these courses students from different educational backgrounds will learn the fundamentals of electrical engineering through a hybrid model that allows them to learn concepts and skills through hands on activities. In addition to the lessons, which will draw from introductory topics in engineering, the courses will utilize online material and hands-on in-class activities to offer courses directly related to the students’ major and required skills in their first year of study. The first course in this sequence is currently being offered at CSUSM and it has successfully attracted students from other majors as there are many students in their first year of study who want to learn more about engineering and engage in this field. This study showed that the suggested courses are providing the missing link between existing lower-division courses for the major, which focus almost exclusively on science and math prerequisites, and electrical engineering jobs and requirements in local industries, thereby connecting students’ coursework with their future careers. [1] R. M. Marra, K. A. Rodgers, D. Shen and B. Bogue (2012). Leaving engineering: A multi-year single institution study. Journal of Engineering Education, January 2012. [2] B. N. Geisinger and D. R. Raman (2013). Why they leave: Understanding student attrition from engineering majors. International Journal of Engineering Education 29(4): 914–25. Available at

Kamali, R. (2021, July), Improving Retention in Entry-Level Engineering Education by Adding Hands-On Courses of Clinics of Engineering in the First Year of Study Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37309

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015