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Integration Of Computer Based Problem Solving Into Engineering Curricula

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Computer Education Management Tools II

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.772.1 - 13.772.17



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Paper Authors


Dianne Raubenheimer North Carolina State University

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Dianne Raubenheimer is Director of Assessment in the College of Engineering and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Adult and Higher Education in the College of Education at NCSU. She has worked with faculty and administrators in Engineering for two years, and previously in the Science and Education disciplines. She has a background in teacher education, curriculum development and evaluation and has worked as an education consultant for a number of organizations in the USA and South Africa conducting program evaluations. She received a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development (Higher Education) from the University of Louisville and has M.Ed, M.Sc, B.Sc (Hons) degrees and a postgraduate Diploma in Adult Education from the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa.

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Rebecca Brent Education Designs Inc.

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Rebecca Brent is president of Education Designs, Inc., a consulting firm located in Cary, North Carolina.  She is also an educational consultant for the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University and co-director of the National Effective Teaching Institute sponsored by the American Society for Engineering Education.  Dr. Brent received her B.A. from Millsaps College in Jackson, MS, her M.Ed. from Mississippi State University and her Ed.D. from Auburn University.  She was an Associate Professor of Education at East Carolina University before starting her consulting firm in 1996.

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Jeff Joines North Carolina State University


Amy Craig North Carolina State University

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Amy E. Craig is the Coordinator of Student-Owned Computing in the College of Engineering and a doctoral candidate in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at NC State University. She regularly teaches the Introduction to Engineering and Problem Solving course in the First Year Engineering Program. Her research interests include faculty development and teaching and learning in the engineering disciplines. She received her MIE and BSIE degrees from NC State University. Prior to her return to NC State, she worked as a Cost Engineer in the Personal Computing Division of IBM.

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

Integration of Computer-Based Problem Solving into Engineering Curricula


The primary objectives of this engineering project are (1) to examine how to develop students’ problem solving and computational skills early in their program of study and (2) to further enhance these skills by building upon critical computing concepts semester after semester. The project is a component of NC State University’s quality enhancement plan, which focuses on the use of technology in enhancing student learning. The project stems from new introductory computer-based modeling courses that were created in two engineering departments, and has expanded to include other departments. We give an overview of the project, provide an example of how a problem is modeled and broken apart, present some assessment results, and discuss the emerging lessons being learned.


Many engineering curricula around the country are re-evaluating their introductory computer programming requirement. At our university, several departments have changed from the traditional Java or C++ course to something more applicable to their discipline. Realizing that the standard introductory programming course no longer appropriately complements the education of systems engineers, three departments (Textile Engineering (TE), Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE), and Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering (CBE)) looked at similar approaches to developing or revising existing courses to help students with algorithmic thinking and problem solving using computing.

These courses aim to educate students to model problems relevant to their specific engineering discipline, solve these problems using modeling tools (including a range of software platforms, such as Excel with VBA), and then to analyze the solutions through decision support (i.e., to become “power users” not programmers).

Other departments in the College of Engineering have expressed interest in reviewing their introductory computer programming course requirement and implementing a course similar to those already developed in TE, ISE and CBE. This is the ‘scale-out’ portion of our project, as we seek to expand the work and develop similar introductory courses in other engineering disciplines. The second part of the project is the ‘scale-up’ portion, which entails linking computational processes and skills across courses in the curriculum, that is, developing a computational thread at successive levels in program curricula. We acknowledge that not every course lends itself to the use of computational tools, but there are courses at successive curriculum levels where it is appropriate and beneficial to student learning for computational tools to be utilized and problem solving skills to be reinforced. Figure 1 schematically represents these two parts of our project, the ‘scale out’ and ‘scale up’ components.

Raubenheimer, D., & Brent, R., & Joines, J., & Craig, A. (2008, June), Integration Of Computer Based Problem Solving Into Engineering Curricula Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3652

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