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Mechanical And Industrial Engineering: Multidisciplinary Partners In The Freshman Design Experience

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.709.1 - 6.709.14

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Paper Authors

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Edgar Conley

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Linda Riley

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

Session 3425

Mechanical and Industrial Engineering: Multidisciplinary Partners in the Freshman Design Experience

Linda Ann Riley, Edgar Conley Department of Industrial Engineering/Department of Mechanical Engineering New Mexico State University


A discipline-specific freshman design course is a common offering in many engineering programs. Typically, this introductory class has several objectives:

1) To excite and motivate students about engineering in general, and further, to foster enthusiasm about a discipline-specific field such as mechanical or industrial engineering; 2) to provide students with elementary tools and methods useful in the design process and to encourage students to apply these tools by means of carefully crafted design exercises; 3) to develop teaming, interpersonal, time management and creative thinking skills; 4) to further refine communication, writing and presentation skills; and 5) to begin the process of relationship building among individual students, the instructor teaching the course, and the student’s home department.

From a faculty perspective, achieving these objectives with a group of freshmen may seem daunting. Nevertheless, such a course is often the student’s first exposure to discipline-specific material, thus an improperly designed, uninteresting course can negatively and strongly affect engineering program attrition rates.

The precise influence of initial course offerings on attrition is unknown but statistics indicate a problem exists - engineering drop-off rates from the freshman to sophomore year are notable. Even more compelling is the percentage of students leaving one engineering discipline for another, or choosing an entirely different major in another college. This raises the question, what happens during the freshman year? What did the student witness or experience that caused a rejection of an engineering area of first choice? In contrast to the sophomore and junior years, during the freshman year the level of difficulty and technical nature of engineering material is elementary. So the problem we believe, owes not to the sudden increase in academic rigor - it lies in the initial subject matter, its presentation and the student’s various interactions with faculty and other students.

Seeking an alternative and/or complement to the traditional engineering-tools freshmen offering, we present the following article. We had two primary goals: 1) reduction in freshman attrition rates; and 2) curricular redesign according to ABET 2000 guidelines. To accomplish these goals, faculty members in the mechanical and industrial engineering departments at New Mexico State University initiated a partnership. The partnership focused on the design and implementation of an innovative approach to captivate relatively inexperienced students early in their engineering

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Conley, E., & Riley, L. (2001, June), Mechanical And Industrial Engineering: Multidisciplinary Partners In The Freshman Design Experience Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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