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Rewards of an Engineering Prerequisite Assignment

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Practice I: Academic Success

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Cynthia Jane Wilson Orndoff Esq. Florida Southwestern State College

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Dr. Cynthia Orndoff received a J.D in 2014 from Ave Maria Law School and a B.S. in 1984, an M.S. in 1997 and a Ph.D. in 2001, all in Civil Engineering from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  Prior to Florida SouthWestern College, she was an Associate Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University and an Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She has taught courses in infrastructure management, planning, transportation and construction management. Dr. Orndoff has more than ten years of engineering field experience. Her application-based engineering research incorporates sustainability, policy, legal issues, economics, decision-making, planning as well as public administration, policy, finance, and their stakeholders. She is active in engineering leadership and management practice issues. She has also served on several professional committees, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, the NSF Transportation Research Board, American Society of Engineering Educators and economic development initiatives.

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Elizabeth W. Schott Florida Southwestern State College

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Dr. Elizabeth Schott received a PhD in Industrial Engineering and a MS in Mathematics from New Mexico State University, a MS in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a BS in Mathematics from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Prior to becoming a Professor in the School of Pure and Applied Sciences at Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW), she served as a Quartermaster officer in the United States Army, where she retired as an Academy and Associate Professor from the Department of Systems Engineering at West Point. She currently teaches math and engineering courses at FSW, as well as operations management courses for the University of Arkansas. Her research interests include optimization and engineering education.

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This evidence-based practice paper describes a proposal for an assignment in an introduction to engineering course designed to help students become aware of just what it takes academically to obtain an engineering degree. In an effort to promote this awareness, the authors have instituted an assignment that is designed for the students to explore various universities, their engineering programs, and the prerequisites for those engineering programs. The qualitative data gathered through the assignment reflections were analyzed using criteria-based content analysis.

Students have, to a significant degree, found this assignment to be quite interesting and useful. Students come away with an understanding that engineers are all related in a way that they require almost the same core mathematical skills to obtain their engineering degree. It is often surprising to the students the various science courses that are required, regardless of the engineering degree sought. Some students are not aware of what a prerequisite is. Students frequently remark that this assignment "opened my eyes because if I begin a program at one university and decide to continue the program in another I may be required to take extra coursework to meet the requirements." Other students are convinced that they are going to pursue a particular engineering degree and as a result of the assignment, they choose a totally different engineering degree to pursue. Quite often, students are not even aware of all of the different types of engineering degrees available. This is even after they have covered the various engineering degrees via their textbook readings and assessment. It seems that doing research on their own solidifies the information. Another critical outcome is that some students realize that an engineering degree might not be for them or may not be a realistic goal. It is common for students to be surprised that "an engineering degree is a very complicated goal to achieve."

Along with the requirements of different engineering programs, students learn about various tuition and enrollment statistics for both public and private institutions. As a result of this assignment, students are able to plan better because they are more aware of the requirements and can better gauge a realistic timeline for graduation. This assignment has given the authors a surprising gratifying result, being thanked by students for giving an assignment!

In this paper, the authors will share the idea behind creating the assignment, the assignment itself, and the analysis of the results of the assignment after using it four semesters in both ground and online sections of an introduction to engineering course.

Wilson Orndoff, C. J., & Schott, E. W. (2018, June), Rewards of an Engineering Prerequisite Assignment Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30941

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: © 2018 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