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Shifting to a Student-Focused Introductory Course for Freshman Students

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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

FPD II: Increasing Engagement and Motivation of First-Year Students

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1287.1 - 22.1287.14



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Paper Authors


Julie J. Parish Texas A&M University

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Julie J. Parish is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. Her current research investigates strategies for exploiting the structure of the governing differential equations of constrained and hybrid dynamical systems for state estimation. She is the recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, NDSEG Graduate Research Fellowship, and AIAA Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Student Award.

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Kristi J. Shryock Texas A&M University

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Kristi J. Shryock is a Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Programs in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. She received both a B.S. and M.S. in
Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M and received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Engineering at Texas A&M in May 2011. Her research work focuses on engineering education.

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Dimitris C. Lagoudas Texas A&M University

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D. C. Lagoudas currently is the Department Head and the inaugural recipient of the John and Bea Slattery Chair in Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. He also serves as the Director for the Texas Institute for Intelligent Materials and Structures (TiiMS). His research involves the design, characterization and modeling of multifunctional material systems at nano, micro and macro levels. During the past two decades he has published extensively on the subject of shape memory alloys with his students, postdoctoral associates and colleagues and several of his journal papers are now considered classic papers in the field. He served as an Associate Vice President for Research for Texas A&M University from 2001 - 2004, and as the first chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Program at TAMU. He has been involved with curriculum innovations and engineering education throughout his career, notably with the Foundation Coalition, where he focused on restructuring the sophomore year engineering curriculum.

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Shifting to an Interactive Introductory Course for Freshman StudentsRetention rates in undergraduate engineering programs are a nationwide concern. In theAerospace Engineering department at a large public university, six-year graduation rates wereonly 20% for 2007. The biggest drop in retention rate was found to occur from the freshman tosophomore year, where students were only exposed to general engineering courses without anyinstruction in aerospace-specific applications or design problems. In the past, the institution hasconducted an Introduction to Aerospace Engineering course limited to a one-way exchangeofinformation about the field of aerospace engineering. That is, once a week, students listened toa different professor or industry member speak on a particular topic or their company, butinteraction with students was limited. Furthermore, the material was often too technical for thefreshman level as well.In spring 2009, the institution decided to change the focus of the course to encourage studentparticipation through more interactive classes and a new design component. Instead ofPowerPoint presentations, guest speakers were asked to bring in demonstrations to explaincurrent aerospace design problems and applications of new technology. Industry representativeswereinvited to present “real-world” problems they are resolving to give students a betterappreciation of the unique challenges of the aerospace industry. Also, aerospace studentorganizations, graduate students, and upperclassmen were recruited to speak to the studentsabout research opportunities, aspects of senior design projects, and ways to become involved inthe aerospace community to encourage integration of students into the department after theirfreshman year.The course is still evolving with the addition of a freshman mentoring program in the fall of2010. This addition to the course connects junior and senior level students to freshman studentsin the department to give freshman students a resource for advice on classes, instructors, studyhabits, career options, research, student organizations, and general college life. The mentors alsofunction as a source of encouragement by providing insight about how fundamental classessupport interesting upper-level coursework and by coaching the freshmen through the learningcurves of the first-year math and science classesThe paper will describe in detail the new structure of this introductory course. Class topics aredivided into three broad areas to give the freshman students both a broad understanding of thefield and a working knowledge of how their collegiate experience might shape their long-termcareer plans. These areas include (1) the three main disciplines of aerospace engineering, (2)student opportunities in research, professional organizations, and industry, and (3) future careeroptions in government, industry, and academia. To support each of these topics, students aregiven both individual and team assignments to engage them in critical thinking about aerospaceengineering problems. This paper will include examples of these assignments as well as studentresponses. The results of changes to this course will focus on comparing initial retention ratesfrom students participating in the course to the past overall retention rates of students inaerospace department, as well as other engineering departments at the institution.

Parish, J. J., & Shryock, K. J., & Lagoudas, D. C. (2011, June), Shifting to a Student-Focused Introductory Course for Freshman Students Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18714

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