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Teaching to the Other Side of Campus: An Engineering Professor’s Experience with an Honors College Course

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Engineering Literacy: Champions of Engineering in General Education

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


John R. Reisel University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

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Dr. John R. Reisel is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). His research efforts focus on engineering education, combustion and energy utilization. Dr. Reisel was a 2005 recipient of the UWM Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, a 2000 recipient of the UWM College of Engineering and Applied Science Outstanding Teaching Award, and a 1998 recipient of the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award. Dr. Reisel received his B.M.E. degree from Villanova University in 1989, his M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1991, and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1994.

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There is a great need in the United States to increase the overall technical literacy of the population. To help meet this need, engineering courses are being taught in grade schools and high schools across the country; such courses are increasing interest in students to pursue engineering degrees in college and are teaching the thought processes used by engineers to the classes. At the university level, there are the occasional engineering courses offered to non-engineering majors, but such courses are often at the freshman level and often not taught by regular faculty. As such, students taking such courses may only receive a brief overview of the engineering discipline.

Some argue that engineering faculty need to do more to increase the technical literacy of a broad-spectrum of students. But putting non-majors in the mid-level or upper-level engineering courses often taught by faculty would result in students attempting to learn engineering course material without the prerequisite knowledge, and therefore likely do more harm than good. An alternative approach is to develop courses for upper-level non-engineering students based on technical subjects that are (a) interesting and educational to the students, (b) do not rely on large amounts of prerequisite knowledge and mathematical skills, and (c) be taught by regular engineering faculty. Such courses can then be offered as elective courses to students in non-engineering disciplines. These courses would offer students in other disciplines the opportunity to learn about technical subjects of current importance from engineers with expertise in these areas, but without going into the mathematical rigor for which they may not be prepared.

In this paper, the author describes his experiences with preparing and teaching a seminar course to non-engineering students offered through the Honors College at his university. The course was a general course about energy, and covered issues associated with transportation, electricity generation, and building systems. The paper discusses finding the appropriate level of coverage of the subject material, the challenges and opportunities with teaching in a seminar-style format, and setting appropriate expectations for upper-level students from a variety of non-engineering disciplines. The paper also includes lessons learned from the course so as to improve the course in future offerings.

Reisel, J. R. (2017, June), Teaching to the Other Side of Campus: An Engineering Professor’s Experience with an Honors College Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28929

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