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Incorporating a Mid-semester Project to Evaluate Communication, and Leadership Skills for Undergraduate Engineering Students in the Statics/Strength of Materials Course: A Comparative Assessment Before and During COVID-19

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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

Mechanics & Mechanics Related

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Eleazar Marquez Rice University

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Eleazar Marquez is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Rice University.

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Samuel Garcia Jr. NASA EPDC

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Dr. Samuel García Jr. is an Education Specialist at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Dr. García helps facilitate professional development to both formal and informal STEM educators utilizing NASA resources with a specific focus on Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. He also works with faculty serving in Minority Serving Institutions in developing STEM educational tools and resources for teachers to implement in their classrooms. Dr. García’s research agenda is geared towards community and educational change by creating healthy, equitable, and culturally responsive learning environments for traditionally underserved populations. Dr. García. earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas Río Grande Valley, formerly University of Texas Pan American and holds a doctorate degree in School Improvement from Texas State University.

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In this research study, a Popsicle-bridge project was assigned to a cohort of undergraduate engineering students enrolled in a Statics and Strength of Materials Course to enhance technical, communication, and leadership skills when working in a group setting. In most undergraduate engineering courses, the technical content is primarily emphasized for the academic development of the student. However, a practicing engineer must be able to possess and apply communication and leadership skills, which are often excluded from the existing curriculum. The first assessment of this project was completed with a cohort of 85 students in the Fall of 2019 before the outbreak of COVID-19, when all the students were attending in-person instruction. In this case, students were allowed to work in groups of four. The second assessment was conducted with a cohort of 95 students enrolled in the Fall 2020 semester, in which 49% of the student population was fully remote and 51% attended in-person instruction. For safety purposes, students in this cohort conducted the project individually but were provided opportunities to communicate with their peers. Results, before the pandemic, indicate that leadership roles and communicating effectively with group members were critical aspects in completing the project on time and having a functional, well-designed project. The students highlighted several factors such as delegating tasks to each member, meeting frequently to ensure each assignment is being executed properly, and managing different ideas as fundamental components in communication. Results for the second cohort of students indicate that completing individual projects represents a challenge despite being allowed to communicate with their peers, particularly, since working with team members can alleviate the burden of having to construct every single component on the project. However, being able to communicate with their peers allowed for ideas to be exchanged and for specific questions to be addressed.

Marquez, E., & Garcia, S. (2021, July), Incorporating a Mid-semester Project to Evaluate Communication, and Leadership Skills for Undergraduate Engineering Students in the Statics/Strength of Materials Course: A Comparative Assessment Before and During COVID-19 Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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