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Redesign of the Introduction to Engineering Course and its Impact on Students’ Knowledge and Application of the Engineering Design Process

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Technical Session 6: Design and Design Chanllenges

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Haolin Zhu Arizona State University

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Dr. Haolin Zhu received her PhD in Solid Mechanics and Computational Science and Engineering from Cornell University. She is currently part of the freshmen engineering education team in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Currently she focuses on designing the curriculum for the freshman engineering program as well as the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program. She also designs and teaches courses in mechanical engineering at ASU. Her interests include innovative teaching pedagogies for increased retention and student motivation, innovations in non-traditional delivery methods, as well as structured reflective practices throughout the engineering curriculum.

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Benjamin Emery Mertz Arizona State University

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Dr. Benjamin Mertz received his Ph. D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2010 and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2005. He is currently a part of a lecturer team at Arizona State University that focuses on the first-year engineering experience, including developing and teaching the Introduction to Engineering course. He also teaches Thermo-Fluids and High Speed Aerodynamics for the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at ASU. His interests include student pathways and motivations into engineering and developing lab-based curriculum. Recently, he has developed an interest in non-traditional modes of content delivery including online classes and flipped classrooms.

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Redesign of the Introduction to Engineering Course and its Impact on Students’ Knowledge and Application of the Engineering Design Process

This evidence-based practice paper will discuss the new structure of the 2-credit introduction to engineering course at [institution] and its impact on students' knowledge and application of the Engineering Design Process. This course was previously structured to have two relatively independent parts. It began by introducing the engineering design process as well as basic engineering skills, tools, and software for the first 6-7 weeks, and ended with a 7-8 week multidisciplinary hands-on team design project. Students learned the concepts needed for the project during the first half of the semester, but they did not have to connect concepts from one unit to the next until the final design project in the second half of the semester. Of specific concern was that students were taught the engineering design process during the second week of the class, but this was not applied to a complete design project until the second half of the class. This course has recently been restructured to teach the design and project concepts in the context of a semester-long project. All details and techniques of the engineering design process, as well as other basic engineering skills and tools, are introduced throughout the entire semester as they become useful in the design project. With the new structure, more just-in-time learning would occur and students are able to apply what they learn immediately in the context of the project.

The new course structure was implemented during the 2015 fall semester in 6 sections of the course, with approximately 40 students each, taught by the authors. Its impact on students’ knowledge and application of the engineering design process will be assessed using a pre- and post-test developed by Saterbak, et al.[1]. Each time, students will be asked to critique a Gantt chart that describes a 14-week schedule of a design project that has many flaws. More specifically, they will be instructed to elaborate on the steps of the design process, discuss strategies appropriate to accomplish each step, and identify strengths and weaknesses of the proposed design process. A class taught using the old structure during the Spring 2015 semester by one of the authors will serve as a control group for the study. The same test was given to the control group during spring 2015 as a take home exam. All responses will be evaluated using the rubrics created by Saterbak, et al. at 8 levels: needs assessment/establishing design criteria; design context review; idea generation; analysis and decision-making; building and testing; overall layout of a design process and iteration; time allotments; and documentation[1]. The results will be compared and discussed.

References [1] Saterbak, A., Volz, T., “Assessing Knowledge and Application of the Design Process in a First-Year Engineering Design Course”, in American Society for Engineering Education Conference, Proceedings of, Indianapolis, IN, 2014.

Zhu, H., & Mertz, B. E. (2016, June), Redesign of the Introduction to Engineering Course and its Impact on Students’ Knowledge and Application of the Engineering Design Process Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26060

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015