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Making Technological Paradigm Shifters: Myths And Reality

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Engineering Poster

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.828.1 - 7.828.9



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Paper Authors

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Mani Mina

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Session 1532

Making Technological Paradigm Shifters: Myths and Reality Experiencing the Electrical Engineering Learning Community (EELC) at Iowa State University

Mani Mina Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Iowa State University

Introduction During the second half of the 20th century, teaching technology to the engineering freshmen has posed tremendous challenges. The main challenge can be summarized in the following question: What can we teach the freshmen in engineering disciplines that will be useful and instructive for their future? In many introductory courses teaching practical tools can be risky. The fear is to have obsolete tools by the time the students graduate. Consequently, in many schools during the last few decades of the 20th century, the emphasis has been on mathematical and scientific concepts. Such an approach would build a good foundation for the future classes. It would also be a fundamental concept that will remain the same by the time the students graduate. Finally, with that approach from the first class the serious and intellectually capable students would be encouraged to stay with the program and the rest to change fields. In fact, this approach sounds attractive to many of my colleagues, especially those who are focusing on having “strong” (which mostly means mathematically capable) students in senior-level classes. However, it is not the most effective pedagogical approach. The problem my colleagues are facing with students’ backgrounds and preparation is not exactly due to lack of mathematic capability, but due to lack of interest. Careful observation of our undergraduate students shows that a good number of engineering students have been either overwhelmed or even discouraged out of the programs due to the heavy emphasis on pure mathematical approaches and very little hands-on teaching. The author believes that this method has affected many students’ performance, creativity, and interest in the field.

Recently, some progressive programs have been working on integrating hands-on and technical problem-solving schemes into their freshman classes1-3. When the students see applications and develop their interests dealing with hands-on problems, they would be ready to learn the mathematical aspects of the field. Consequently, in this approach the students will have better reasons to learn the mathematical concepts since they are conveyed to them in a practical context. The idea is to encourage students to know their field and the basics of engineering in a positive, dynamic, and practical environment. This approach has proven to be much more effective than other approaches.

At the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University we have chosen to solve the problem by offering a new problem-solving course based on authentic learning theories. The course is designed to breed new students with new ways of thinking and problem-solving skills. Our approach incorporates the hands-on practical projects from early Proceedings of the 2002 American society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright @2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Mina, M. (2002, June), Making Technological Paradigm Shifters: Myths And Reality Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11240

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