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The Challenge of Preparing iGen Students for Engineering and Computer Science

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Technical Courses and Liberal Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Kenneth W. Van Treuren Baylor University

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Ken Van Treuren is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering at Baylor University. He received his B. S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and his M. S. in Engineering from Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. After serving as USAF pilot in KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft, he completed his DPhil in Engineering Sciences at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom and returned to the USAF Academy to teach heat transfer and propulsion systems. At Baylor University, he teaches courses in laboratory techniques, fluid mechanics, energy systems, and propulsion systems, as well as freshman engineering. Research interests include renewable energy to include small wind turbine aerodynamics, experimental convective heat transfer as applied to HVAC and gas turbine systems, and engineering education.

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William M. Jordan Baylor University

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William Jordan is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Baylor University. He has B.S. and M.S. degrees in metallurgical engineering from the Colorado School of Mines, an M.A. degree in theology from Denver Seminary, and a Ph.D. in mechanics and materials from Texas A & M University. He teaches materials-related courses and does research with natural fiber composite materials. He is also interested in entrepreneurship,sustainable engineering, and appropriate technology in developing countries.

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Cynthia C. Fry Baylor University

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CYNTHIA C. FRY is currently a Senior Lecturer of Computer Science at Baylor University. She worked at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as a Senior Project Engineer, a Crew Training Manager, and the Science Operations Director for STS-46. She was an Engineering Duty Officer in the U.S. Navy (IRR), and worked with the Naval Maritime Intelligence Center as a Scientific/Technical Intelligence Analyst. She was the owner and chief systems engineer for Systems Engineering Services (SES), a computer systems design, development, and consultation firm. She joined the faculty of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Baylor University in 1997, where she teaches a variety of engineering and computer science classes, she is the Faculty Advisor for the Women in Computer Science (WiCS), the Director of the Computer Science Fellows program, and is a KEEN Fellow. She has authored and co-authored over fifty peer-reviewed papers.

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A recent suicide by an engineering student began the questions related to students entering higher education today, the iGeneration (iGen), GenZ or Smartphone Generation. Smartphones are tools to be used by nearly all students today but has the access to smartphones been positive or negative influence? Many professors today have not grown up under the same circumstances so it is hard to relate to pressures that have shaped their lives if iGen students. What is the role of smartphones in this process? Obviously any new technology can be both positive and negative at the same time. The literature today shows that iGen has definite characteristics that indicate they are not prepared for the challenges of adulthood, let alone the challenges of college life. College counselors are seeing a record number of students. Almost 50% of students have reported some sort of mental illness with over a third of the students indicating that they have contemplated suicide. This information should cause us to reflect on the iGen students entering the university and attempt to understand their circumstances and culture. Who are they? What life skills and experiences do they bring with them to the university? More importantly, what is the role of the university, in particular our engineering and computer science programs, to prepare these iGen students to become productive members of the workforce? Are engineering and computer science students different and, thus, bring with them a different set of pressures? Industry is already recognizing that current engineering and computer science graduates lack some of the basic skills needed for success in the workplace. When considering the three Cs, Curiosity, Connections and Creating Value, how are we to instill these qualities into our students, especially if they are not exposed to them at an early age? Feedback from industrial advisory boards is that the current generation lacks skills such as work experience and face-to-face social interaction. Too much parental involvement has robbed students of the opportunity to solve challenges that they face. Parents do not want their children to fail. How does the university help students overcome the challenges that arise from the background and culture from which they came? This paper will define iGen, provide relevant background and discuss the implications for engineering and computer science programs. It will help faculty become aware of the iGen and relate better to iGen students. It will give context, hope and direction as faculty interact with these students.

Van Treuren, K. W., & Jordan, W. M., & Fry, C. C. (2020, June), The Challenge of Preparing iGen Students for Engineering and Computer Science Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35296

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