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Introduction To Engineering Problem Solving A New Course For 1100 First Year Engineering Students

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.349.1 - 4.349.10

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Paper Authors

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Walthea V. Yarbrough

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Sarah J. Rajala

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Richard L. Porter

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Hugh Fuller

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Laura Bottomley

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Mary Clare Robbins

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

Session 2353

Introduction to Engineering Problem Solving - A New Course for 1100 First Year Engineering Students

Richard L. Porter, Laura J. Bottomley, Mary Clare Robbins, Walthea V. Yarbrough, Sarah A. Rajala, and Hugh Fuller North Carolina State University

I. Introduction

During the past several years, NC State University has offered several experimental courses designed for the first year student in engineering; IMPEC, an integrated approach to mathematics, physics, engineering, and chemistry 1,2; E123, a mechanical dissection course which is now linked with the first year writing and composition course 3,4; and ECE 292D, a hands-on team based design course offered to upper class students as well 5,6. All were offered as an alternative to the introductory course (E100) that had little academic content, no engineering problem solving, and consisted of a large lecture room format with information dissemination as the major goal. Although the alternate courses were excellent and well received by the students, none could be easily scaled up to accommodate 1100+ freshmen engineering students. In 1996 and again in 1997, a new version of freshmen engineering (E497F) was offered that incorporated many of the elements of the alternative courses 7. This was offered to 250-350 engineering freshmen randomly selected each year.

Efforts are described to develop and deliver a freshmen engineering course for all 1100+ freshmen that incorporates most of the intrinsic features of the alternative courses; is firmly based on the ABET 2000 outcomes; stresses integration with other first year courses; and contains elements of written and oral communication, team building, critical thinking, multidisciplinary thinking, and problem solving. The structure of the course includes a weekly lecture in large groups, and a smaller team-based problem-solving laboratory which alternates with a required first year course focused on introduction to the computing environments on campus.

The content of the course, selection of topics, texts, and assignments is described. The other component of the course is the problem-solving laboratory facilitated by undergraduate student assistants. The laboratory component is strongly linked with the lecture and has a device- dissection component as well as a project design competition. Incorporation of a meaningful hands-on experience for all students presented a considerable challenge. Facilitation of the laboratory is discussed and the device-dissection component is described in another paper 8. Students’ attitudes about engineering and the entire first year experience were assessed using the Pittsburgh Freshman Engineering Attitudes Survey © (PFEAS) 9,10,11.

Yarbrough, W. V., & Rajala, S. J., & Porter, R. L., & Fuller, H., & Bottomley, L., & Robbins, M. C. (1999, June), Introduction To Engineering Problem Solving A New Course For 1100 First Year Engineering Students Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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