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Multiple Models Of A Freshman Engineering Experiment

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD2 -- Highlighting First-Year Programs

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.943.1 - 11.943.8



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Paper Authors

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Jeffrey Connor Virginia Tech

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Vinod Lohani Virginia Tech

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Kumar Mallikarjunan Virginia Tech

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G. Loganathan Virginia Tech

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Jenny Lo Virginia Tech

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

Multiple Models of a Freshman Engineering Experiment


The College of Engineering (COE) at Virginia Tech is the sixth largest US engineering program in terms of bachelor’s degrees awarded1. All first-year engineering students are required to complete a common General Engineering (GE) curriculum with the introduction to engineering course taught by the faculty in the Department of Engineering Education (EngE). Students transfer from ENGE to eleven degree-granting departments as sophomores. The yearly enrollment in GE has been about 1300 for the past decade. The department has been emphasizing a hands-on approach to instruction with design as the central theme since about the year 2000.2

Providing meaningful hands-on experiences to a large number of engineering students is a challenge. Faculty, lab space, and money are always a consideration. Even the mechanics of adding lab time to the students’ already tight schedules creates an immense hurdle. The department has been fortunate to receive significant funding support for student projects through the generosity of Virginia Tech’s Student Engineers Council (SEC). The SEC has provided the freshman engineering program approximately $10,000 per year for the last six years in direct support of EngE’s hands-on instruction. From 1998 to present, they have given a total of nearly $200,000 to the college in support of undergraduate engineering instruction.3

In 2004, the EngE faculty, in collaboration with faculty from other engineering departments and the School of Education, were successful in getting a major engineering education project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its departmental level reform (DLR) program.4 The goal of the DLR project is to reformulate the freshman engineering (i.e., GE program) within EngE and the bioprocess engineering option within the Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) program using a theme based spiral curriculum approach. The twentieth century psychologist, Jerome Bruner, proposed the concept of the spiral curriculum. Bruner advocates that a curriculum as it develops should revisit the basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them.5 In the proposed reformulation, a theme of sustainability has been selected to provide a contextual framework. The supporting principles of design, ethics, and a systems approach and cross- cutting skills of communication, teamwork, life-long learning, research experience, and lab experience will be woven throughout the curricula.

In the spring of 2005 the department piloted a new model for student instruction in one of the freshman year engineering courses called “Engineering Exploration EngE1024” in order to provide avenues for educational research, provide teaching opportunities for graduate students, and reduce faculty teaching loads for pursuing scholarly activities. This model was fully implemented in the fall of 2005. Traditionally, EngE faculty members taught the two credit hour introduction to engineering classes similar to EngE1024 twice a week for fifty minutes each in a

Connor, J., & Lohani, V., & Mallikarjunan, K., & Loganathan, G., & Lo, J. (2006, June), Multiple Models Of A Freshman Engineering Experiment Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--898

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