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Portable Laboratories For General Education Engineering Courses

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Teaching Technological Literacy - Engaging Students

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.957.1 - 15.957.12



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Paper Authors


John Krupczak Hope College

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Professor of Engineering

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Kate Disney Mission College

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Engineering Instructor

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

Portable Laboratories for General Education Engineering Courses


Many engineering programs are facing unfamiliar challenges in the area of curriculum development and course offerings. Some engineering departments are working with a new constituency of students through newly offered courses on engineering and technological topics for non-engineering students. At the same time increased emphasis has been directed to the importance of a high quality first year engineering experience. Both of these changes have been motivated by several factors including calls for improved undergraduate education and increased technological literacy for all students. Another unfamiliar challenge is the increasing need for engineering departments to maintain stable levels of enrollment. Two year or community colleges are faced with additional demands to maintain an affordable and academically appropriate gateway into higher education and a viable means of transferring into four year programs. In achieving an effective engineering course, laboratory projects are universally identified as a key component. However creating and operating laboratories for large enrollment classes is a demanding task especially in the community college environment. To address these needs, this work investigates the feasibility of developing and shipping self-contained laboratories in a box. This will allow institutions to borrow, rent, or lease rather than own the equipment. The laboratories are intended to be completely self-contained so that all materials arrive in a single box in ready-to-use condition. This will minimize the preparation time for instructors. These laboratories are suitable for use in either introduction to engineering courses or courses on engineering topics for non-engineers. The laboratories attempt to utilize insights from non-engineering students to determine themes that help to make the laboratories appealing to both non-engineers and those students who have self-selected into engineering. Key themes include using material that focuses on technology familiar to the students in their everyday life, use of extensive verbal and graphical explanations, and inclusions of practical information that helps to establish a sense of empowerment regarding technology. Eight laboratory projects are being created and tested in both two or four year schools. Results will be presented from work done during the 2009-2010 academic year.


The National Academy of Engineering has advocated that all Americans must develop a better understanding of the technology upon which our modern standard of living depends. This includes all types of technology and the products of the various engineering professions, not just computers and information technology.1 While not yet common, some engineering departments offer service courses for non-engineers.2-14 Many of these technological literacy courses have become successful when measured by sustained student interest and long-term sustainability.2-14

Initially it may appear that these engineering courses for non-engineers have little relation to the curriculum for an engineering degree. However, in attempting to enliven introduction to engineering courses, these successful technological literacy courses represent a potential source of themes or topics that capture the interest of undergraduate students.

Krupczak, J., & Disney, K. (2010, June), Portable Laboratories For General Education Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16292

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