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Student Outcomes And Experiences In A Freshman Engineering Design Course

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.397.1 - 1.397.8



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Paper Authors

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Sandra Shaw Courter

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Lyman Lyons

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Andrea Bailey

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Susan B. Millar

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2553

Student Outcomes and Experiences in a Freshman Engineering Design Course

Sandra Shaw Courter, Lyman Lyons, Susan Bolyard Millar, and Andrea Bailey Learning through Evaluation, Adaptation and Dissemination (LEAD) Center University of Wisconsin-Madison


A group of seven University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering professors created and piloted a freshman introduction to engineering course with sixty-seven students in fall, 1994. The course concentrated on having freshmen work in teams to identify customer needs, find solutions, and design a final product for a genuine customer. Students in each of the seven lab sections first worked in small groups of three or four to create proposed solutions, then met as a whole-lab group to decide on a solution and design and test it. Students concluded the course with formal presentations to students, faculty and customers. An evaluation of the course based on extensive observations and interviews with students found that students experienced engineering in a personal, supportive, team-oriented environment. The course helped students make informed career decisions and develop a sense of professional identity as engineers. An analysis of retention data indicated that the students stayed in engineering through their freshman year at a higher than average rate of 96Y0, compared to 75$Z0 in a control group. Eighteen of the twenty women were retained.


In 1993 the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering set up the College Curriculum Committee to examine whether a gap existed between its engineering education program and the expectations of employers. The committee concluded there was indeed a gap, and identified the needs to retain more freshmen and increase the number of women and minorities in engineering. Simultaneously, Sandra Courter and Katherine Sanders began a teaching improvement project with six engineering faculty that would be Sanders’ Industrial Engineering Ph.D. dissertation project. The faculty examined the learning experience, exploring ideas they could use to improve their teaching and student learning. The opportunity to put their ideas into practice came with an Advanced Research Projects Agency-funded Technology Reinvestment Project grant awarded to the Engineering Research Center for Plasma-Aided Manufacturing. The grant included funding for a new freshman introduction to engineering course beginning fall, 1994.

The Fall 1994 Pilot Course

The new course’s faculty met during the summer of 1994 to plan the course. They set the goal of the course to provide freshmen engineering students with an experience that allows them to discover engineering by practicing engineering in a realistic situation. Having the students work in small teams on

Courter, S. S., & Lyons, L., & Bailey, A., & Millar, S. B. (1996, June), Student Outcomes And Experiences In A Freshman Engineering Design Course Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6298

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