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Leveraging a Newly Developed Sophomore Design Course to Increase Students’ Career Awareness

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Systems Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28627

Download Count

61

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Paper Authors

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Cassandra M Degen South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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Dr. Cassandra Degen received her B.S. degree in Metallurgical Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 2007. She received her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying mechanochemical reactions of a spiropyran mechanophore in polymeric materials under shear loading. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering department at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology where her research interests include novel manufacturing and characterization techniques of polymer and composite structures and the incorporation of multifunctionality by inducing desired responses to mechanical loading.

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Shaobo Huang South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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Dr. Shaobo Huang is an Assistant Professor and the Stensaas Endowed STEM Chair in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. Her research interests include student retention and academic performance in engineering, student achievement evaluation and assessment, and K-12 STEM curriculum design.

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Marius D Ellingsen South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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Assistant Professor at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Mechanical Engineering Department. Teaching solid mechanics related courses. Researches Stem Ed and fracture mechanics in novel material systems.

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Karim Heinz Muci-Kuchler South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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Karim Muci-Küchler is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Co-Director of the Experimental and Computational Mechanics Laboratory at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T). Before joining SDSM&T, he was an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Detroit Mercy. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics from Iowa State University in 1992. His main interest areas include Computational Mechanics, Solid Mechanics, and Product Design and Development. He has taught several different courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, has over 50 publications, is co-author of one book, and has done consulting for industry in Mexico and the US. He can be reached at Karim.Muci@sdsmt.edu.

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Mark David Bedillion Carnegie Mellon University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5065-4131

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Dr. Bedillion received the BS degree in 1998, the MS degree in 2001, and the PhD degree in 2005, all from the mechanical engineering department of Carnegie Mellon University. After a seven year career in the hard disk drive industry, Dr. Bedillion was on the faculty of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for over 5 years before joining Carnegie Mellon University as a Teaching Faculty in August 2016. Dr. Bedillion's research interests include distributed manipulation, control applications in data storage, control applications in manufacturing, and STEM education.

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John Ziadat South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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Mr. Ziadat received his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSM&T) in 2014 before going to work for Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) in Hawthorne, CA as a Mechanical Design Engineer. In 2015, his decision to pursue graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering led him back to SDSM&T, where his thesis topic involves the numerical simulation of ballistic impact events. Mr. Ziadat is expected to receive his Master’s degree in May 2017, after which he will be working as a Structural Analyst within Blue Origin’s Propulsion Analysis group, located in Kent, WA.

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Abstract

Many mechanical engineering programs tend to have ties to “traditional” teaching methods and curricula, often prevalent in the form of homogeneous examples that faculty may show in lectures and that textbooks tend to utilize for homework problems. Students’ pre-conceived ideas about career options for mechanical engineers can impact enrollment and retention, particularly for under-represented groups. For instance, textbooks for many mechanical engineering subjects mostly use machinery for example problems. The overabundance of these examples, along with the stereotypes that many prospective students have about what mechanical engineers do, often deter good students from choosing to pursue or from staying in this particular field. While examples in other areas are becoming more prevalent (medical devices, robotics, etc.), significant work is yet to be done to help clarify the question for prospective students of “What do mechanical engineers do?”. Providing students with a broader context of careers in mechanical engineering early in their education may help increase both enrollment and retention, particularly of under-represented groups who may be more likely to be turned off by stereotypical examples and career choices, increasing the diversity of professionals in the field.

The work presented here reports on a recent curriculum change with the potential to affect students’ career awareness in the Mechanical Engineering department at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Beginning in the Fall of 2016, a new track was added to an existing sophomore design course, with the main objective to increasing students’ systems thinking skills. Within this new course, systems thinking concepts were presented to the students keeping a second objective in mind: providing a wide variety of examples and case studies representative of different career options that mechanical engineers have. In addition, the topics in the course were presented using an approach designed to not only capture the attention of the students, but to ensure a deep understanding of the topics covered. The examples and case studies presented in the course were based in a number of different fields given the goal of exposing students to different career opportunities within their chosen major.

To assess student perceptions of career options for mechanical engineers, a career awareness questionnaire was developed and employed. Sophomore students enrolled in the systems thinking sophomore design course were given the career awareness survey in pre- and post-tests at the beginning and the end of the semester to gage changes in their perceptions resulting from the new course content. In addition to surveying the sophomore students, freshmen and senior students who had not been exposed to the new course content were also assessed. Initial comparisons between the groups of students show that the introduction of more non-traditional examples and career paths influenced the students’ perceptions of the career options that mechanical engineering graduates can pursue and showcased alternatives that were more attractive to under-represented students.

Degen, C. M., & Huang, S., & Ellingsen, M. D., & Muci-Kuchler, K. H., & Bedillion, M. D., & Ziadat, J. (2017, June), Leveraging a Newly Developed Sophomore Design Course to Increase Students’ Career Awareness Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28627

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