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Project Falcon Base: A Freshman Engineering Experience

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.364.1 - 1.364.12

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Paper Authors

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Michael L. Smith

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Mary R. Marlino

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Jeff V. Kouri

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D. Neal Barlow

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A. George Havener

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

Session 2653


D. Neal Barlow, A. George Havener, Jeff V. Kouri, Mary R. Marlino, Michael L. Smith USAF Academy, Colorado Springs, CO 80840


A new freshman course is currently being developed and taught on a pilot basis to approximately 40 cadets per semester at the United States Air Force Academy. The purpose of the course is to better address the educational outcomes desired in Academy graduates. Presented as an engineering experience instead of a sequence of classroom lectures, the pedagogical setting for student teams is an Air Force System Program Office responsible for design and deployment of a manned research base on Mars. Instruction follows the Socratic method wherein students are guided to identify the relevant tasks and engineering requirements pertinent to the plan. Traditional instruction is used sparingly to present specific tools and concepts. Quantitative assessment data from the first offering are encouraging because a significant improvement in the students’ ability to frame and resolve ill- defined problems (a priority outcome) has been measured. Qualitative assessment-findings show that the students learned important engineering fundamentals, liked the course and enjoyed the Mars scenario, developed an understanding and appreciation for engineering as an interdisciplinary process, and developed confidence in their ability to make decisions and assumptions needed to obtain results. The course, the assessment plan, and preliminary findings are presented in this paper.

I. INTRODUCTION Background Engineering 110Z (Engr-110Z), a new freshman engineering course, is a 3-year experiment underway at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). The need for and goals of Engr-110Z stem from the Academy’s mission statement: To Develop and Inspire Air and Space Leaders with Vision for Tomorrow. Consistent with the mission statement, members of the faculty recently defined a set of complementary 1 educational outcomes (Appendix-A) desired in Academy graduates . While Engr-110Z addresses all outcomes, priority is given to: framing and resolving ill-defined problems; intellectual curiosity; fundamental engineering knowledge; and professional communication skills in written, oral and graphical formats. Since Engr-110Z is an experiment, a special assessment plan has been designed to determine how well the outcomes are being met. 2 2-4 In contrast to the traditional teacher-centered approach in engineering courses, the student-centered approach replaces the pre-planned lectures with a project requiring students to design and build a device like a human-powered pump, a wind turbine, or an electronic apparatus. The instructor becomes a mentor who guides the students through the design and construction process. In this way, the students acquire ownership over their products, and they learn that engineering is an interdisciplinary process, not just a collection of concepts, equations and facts. Overall, the student-centered approach instills confidence and a willingness to make choices and assumptions needed to obtain results. Furthermore, it teaches students that teamwork is essential in successful engineering endeavors.

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Smith, M. L., & Marlino, M. R., & Kouri, J. V., & Barlow, D. N., & Havener, A. G. (1996, June), Project Falcon Base: A Freshman Engineering Experience Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

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