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Partnering with Industry to Improve First Year Outcomes

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2021 First-Year Engineering Experience



Publication Date

August 9, 2021

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August 9, 2021

End Date

August 21, 2021

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Jacqueline Faith Sullivan University of Central Florida

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Since 2012, Jackie Sullivan (MSEnvE), has been an Adjunct Instructor at UCF (Orlando) in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) and has instructed the first year engineering students since 2015. Ms. Sullivan worked in consulting engineering and STEM program development prior to joining UCF.

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Mark Easley Texas Instruments, Inc.

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The TI University Program is committed to engineering student success and supporting institutions of higher learning that will train the next generation of makers and creators.

Supporting universities with electrical and computer engineering curriculum enhancements, courseware support, and electronics workshops to improve student engagement and outcomes. Enhancing industry partnerships and semiconductor / IoT research activities. Accelerating the trend of online and accessible technical education through Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs).

Focus on improving TI support at United States engineering schools and assisting faculty with preparing students to enter industry with effective knowledge in Design, System, Power, and Connectivity.

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The University of Central Florida (UCF), located in Orlando, has the nation’s largest on-campus undergraduate enrollment that includes 61,456 undergraduate students, 1300+ of whom are freshmen level engineering-pending students. For nearly 20 years, UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) has required engineering students enroll in ‘Introduction to Engineering’ (EGS 1006C) during the fall semester and ‘Engineering Concepts and Methods’ (EGN 1007C) in the spring. Each course is worth one (1) credit hour and includes a weekly 50-minute seminar lecture and a weekly 80-minute lab. In past labs during the fall semesters, students individually programmed and raced robots they were required to purchase at a cost of $125+ each. In 2018 Texas Instruments (TI), one of UCF’s valued industry partners, presented the CECS Academic Affairs Office with their intriguing new teaching robot, the TI Robotics System Learning Kit (TI-RSLK). The TI-RSLK includes a curriculum that provides students with a deeper understanding of how electronic system designs work. Although our first-year course does not warrant in-depth teaching of electronic systems, it was anticipated the TI-RSLK curriculum could be adapted to accommodate the freshmen students. After learning more about the TI-RSLK and its capabilities, the university decided to use it for the EGS 1006C lab series and shifted direction from individual lab assignments to a combination of individual and team-driven assignments related to building, coding, testing and racing the robot. This paper will describe UCF’s first, second and third-year experiences (fall 2020 excluded due to COVID-19) using the TI-RSLK, explaining its numerous benefits and the curriculum adjustments that were made to adapt to large, freshmen classes whose students possess highly varied levels of coding and robotics knowledge/training. Admittedly, the inaugural year using any new product or technology can be challenging and our year the with the TI-RSLK was no exception to this rule of thumb. However, the TI designers solidly supported and worked with us as the students built and programmed their robots during the fall 2018 semester. Most importantly, TI carefully listened to the students, teaching assistants and UCF Innovation Lab Director’s comments and design recommendations regarding changes that would improve the TI-RSLK’s inaugural version. One year later, armed with an improved robot and a more feasible curriculum, the fall 2019 semester labs proceeded more smoothly and our freshmen were able to culminate the semester with a final team project, competing in “The Amazing (TI-RSLK) Race”. Many students, especially those who arrived at UCF as competent coders and well-versed in robotics, thoroughly enjoyed using the TI-RSLK. An important goal during the spring semesters was to ‘reuse and recycle’ the robot’s electronics to help freshmen students upgrade their spring team project, the Great Naval Orange Race (GNOR), where teams design and build a boat to circumnavigate UCF’s iconic Reflecting Pond. Admittedly, the students using their TI-RSLKs to embellish their boat’s navigational system will be the more advanced robotics and coding students. Employing the TI-RSLK is not mandatory for the GNOR design/build project, but doing so will improve a team’s chances of winning the race and our goal is to encourage these extra design efforts.

Sullivan, J. F., & Easley, M. (2021, August), Partnering with Industry to Improve First Year Outcomes Paper presented at 2021 First-Year Engineering Experience, Virtual .

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