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Scholars of Excellence in Engineering and Computer Science Program Phase I: Development and Implementation

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Technical Session

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1274.1 - 22.1274.24



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Paper Authors


Karinna M. Vernaza Gannon University

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Karinna Vernaza joined Gannon University in 2003 and she is currently an Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department. She earned her Ph.D. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame. Her B.S. is in Marine Systems Engineering from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Her primary teaching responsibilities are in the Solid Mechanics and Materials area. She consults for GE Transportation and does research in the area of alternative fuels (Biodiesel), engineering education (active learning techniques), high strain deformation of materials, and reliability for design. She is actively involved in outreach activities that introduce middle school students to engineering.

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Theresa Vitolo Gannon University


Scott Steinbrink Gannon University

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Associate Professor and Chair, Mechanical Engineering Department, Gannon University.

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Barry J. Brinkman Gannon University

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Scholars of Excellence in Engineering and Computer Science Program Phase I: Development and ImplementationThe Scholars of Excellence in Engineering and Computer Science (SEECS) programinitiated its first cohort of 20 students in fall 2009. Funded through an NSF S-STEMgrant, the interdisciplinary, multi-year, mixed academic-level offering awardsscholarships to students based on academic merit and financial need. SEECS is anopportunity for students in certain STEM majors at Gannon University, Erie, PA, in theSchool of Engineering and Computer Science. The goals of the scholarship program are(1) to increase the number of academically talented, but financially disadvantagedstudents in the stated majors, (2) to assist students to be successful in their undergraduateeducation, and (3) to foster professional development for careers or graduate education.These goals are realized through the students shared interactions within the SEECSseminar.Students awarded SEECS scholarships are required to attend a seminar where specificdevelopment and learning outcomes are realized in a team-based, project-based approach.The challenging and engaging aspect of the SEECS program is a zero-credit seminar. TheSEECS seminar encompasses three components: engineering design, professionaldevelopment, and personal development. Through workshops, university supportservices, lectures, and invited speakers, the facets of professional and personaldevelopment are addressed. Each academic level, that is seniors, juniors, sophomoresand freshmen, has different professional and personal development objectives realizedeach semester.While the two development facets follow more typical seminar activities, the engineeringdesign component is the pivotal experience connecting and building not only engineeringcompetency but also personal confidence. The design projects benefit regional serviceorganizations. The design activities pair the freshmen cohort with the seniors; thesophomores with the juniors. Through these pairings, seniors mentor the inexperiencedfreshmen through thought processes and analysis questions accompanying initialunderstanding. The sophomore-and-junior pairings gain a similar benefit during thedesign and deployment phase. Juniors with more professional maturity provide insightsto the design and deployment phases for the sophomores. Hence, “becoming engineers”for the scholars is a shared, fun experience as they immerse themselves in the task ofrealizing a contribution to the community.The development and current success of the SEECS program partially arises from theparticipation provided by and the willingness of established university services andadministrative units to support the program’s needs. Further, the correspondence of theSEECS program goals aligns with the university’s mission. Hence, the SEECS programembodies the university-wide commitment to establishing a worthwhile program for thescholars.To date, the SEECS program has been successful. Two of the three initial seniors areenrolled in engineering graduate studies. The program models an holistic learningapproach with a service-learning component utilizing standard processes and services ofthe university.The following paper presents the evolution of the SEECS program as its goals, structure,and implementation were defined and realized. The first year of recruitment practices,seminar activities, and student evaluations of the program are related. Finally, thepotential for using the SEECS program as a model for an honors-option for academically-talented students in SEECS majors is discussed.

Vernaza, K. M., & Vitolo, T., & Steinbrink, S., & Brinkman, B. J. (2011, June), Scholars of Excellence in Engineering and Computer Science Program Phase I: Development and Implementation Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18901

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