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Keeping Students Engaged: An Overview Of Three Introductory Courses In Aerospace Engineering

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Aerospace Engineering Curriculum

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.799.1 - 8.799.24



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Paper Authors

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Keith Koenig

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Masoud Rais-Rohani

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Thomas Hannigan

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

Session 3202

Keeping Students Engaged: An Overview of Three Introductory Courses in Aerospace Engineering

M. Rais-Rohani, K. Koenig, T. Hannigan Mississippi State University


The traditional approach of teaching major-specific courses beginning in the first or second semester sophomore year has many drawbacks that could lead to stifling student's enthusiasm and interest in his/her field of study and very often to the loss of many talented students to other programs. To alleviate this problem and to keep students engaged and interested in their chosen discipline, the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Mississippi State University began a major overhaul of its undergraduate curriculum in fall 1994 which, among many changes, led to the creation of three freshman/sophomore "Intro-to-ASE" courses. While providing an overview of the curriculum and activities conducted in each course, this paper discusses students' and instructor's assessments of effectiveness of these courses and highlights apparent successes and remaining challenges.

I. Introduction and Background

Although many factors influence a student's selection of a particular major in college, experience seems to indicate that most entering freshmen have very limited knowledge or a skewed understanding of what their chosen disciplines entail. Without the guidance offered by introductory courses, engineering students run the risk of either staying one or two years in a major they will eventually dislike or quickly losing interest in their field of study as a result of taking all the seemingly unrelated math and physics courses.

To help their entering freshmen learn more about engineering in general and its various disciplines in particular, some schools offer a common freshman experience through the use of first-year introduction to engineering program1 while others have taken steps to offer introductory courses in their respective disciplines.2,3

Similar to some of the other aerospace engineering programs in the country before it4, the Department of Aerospace Engineering (ASE) at Mississippi State University (MSU) recognized the need for restructuring its curriculum in part to modernize its undergraduate program and increase enrollment which had begun to decline rapidly since 1990 following nearly a decade of steady growth as indicated in Fig. 1. This decline in enrollment was in most part a reflection of career opportunities available to ASE graduates and was not necessarily unique to MSU. In fact, Mississippi State University is on par with the national average* in the percentage of entering freshmen choosing ASE as a major (1.8% compared to national average5 of 1.6%), the percentage of engineering BS degrees awarded to ASE majors (2.25% compared to the national average6 of 2.2%), and has exceeded the national average in recent years in the fraction of ASE BS degrees awarded to women (25% compared to national average7 of 20%). * We used 2000-2001 data as the data available for previous years lumped the aerospace and mechanical engineering programs together.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Koenig, K., & Rais-Rohani, M., & Hannigan, T. (2003, June), Keeping Students Engaged: An Overview Of Three Introductory Courses In Aerospace Engineering Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11862

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