Asee peer logo

Six Years of Living with the Lab

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Technical Session 3; The Best of All the FPD Papers

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Gerald W. Recktenwald Portland State University

visit author page

Gerald Recktenwald is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical and Materials Engineering Department at Portland State University. His current research interests are in improving engineering education, and in the numerical simulation and measurement of fluid flow heat transfer in electronic equipment, energy efficient buildings, and other industrial applications.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This paper is a report on evidence-based practice in a first year engineering program for Mechanical Engineering Students. We adapted a year-long curriculum called Living with the Lab (LWTL) that uses a project-based, hands-on instruction to introduce students to engineering fundamentals, programming, sensors, controls and engineering design. While adhering to the spirit and much of the content of the original curriculum, we added material, created new hands-on projects, introduced a flipped instructional model for the first course in the sequence, and experimented with an alternative final project model. We briefly describe our key innovations to the LWTL curriculum.

Introduction of this curriculum has coincided with a sharp rise in enrollment in our Mechanical Engineering program. Retention at the end of the three-term sequence is approximately 60%. After six years of implementation the curriculum continues to evolve. We report on a survey of student opinion that spans all cohorts of students passing through the program. Overall there is strong student satisfaction with the curriculum, especially the hands-on approach. Students describe the courses as both "fun" and "challenging". Survey responses show female students are more positive than males about the hands-on pedagogy despite having less prior hands-on experience. Both male and female respondents think the pedagogical approach is appropriate for the course material and beneficial to their learning.

Recktenwald, G. W. (2016, June), Six Years of Living with the Lab Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25811

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