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The Design4 Practice Sophomore Design Course: Adapting To A Changing Academic Environment

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Engineering by Design II

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1272.1 - 10.1272.12



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Paper Authors

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John Tester

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Jerry Hatfield

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

The Design4Practice Sophomore Design Course: Adapting to a Changing Academic Environment John T. Tester, Jerry Hatfield Northern Arizona University

Abstract – At Northern Arizona University, an interdisciplinary sophomore design course – EGR 286 – has undergone a fundamental shift in its innovative and award-winning course structure. This shift is funded in part through a Hewlett Foundation-supported development effort to encourage recruitment and retention of engineering students, with an emphasis on under-represented student populations. This recruiting and retention effort is emphasized in light of historically declining enrollments on the campus as well as in some engineering departments. The course revitalization is centered on enabling more direct student participation in design projects. It begins with two-person design teams that design, build and test weekly projects involving LEGO® parts, sensors, and the Robotic Command eXplorer (RCX). The course progresses in the semester to finally encompass larger design teams of fourteen students, with each team designing a complex, autonomous, robotic- styled system. This revision was to enable a more flexible mix of engineering student majors (Mechanical, Electrical, Civil and Environmental), as some departments had different enrollments for each semester. Furthermore, the philosophy shifted from a primarily project management to a more technical design/build/test approach to design education. The students learn both technical and team skills incrementally by accomplishing new designs each week for nine weeks in teams of two to four students. In the final six weeks, the smaller teams are merged into a larger team of 14-20 students, such that they may then be better able to design a much more complex robotic system design. We detail the course restructuring, which includes the small-projects concept to build knowledge, the course management issues for the college, and the material costs incurred.

Index Terms –Student retention, design education, engineering education. Introduction The College of Engineering and Natural Sciences (CENS) at Northern Arizona University (NAU) is renovating the way it recruits, educates and graduates engineering students. With the aid of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, CENS is actively assessing its regional recruitment resources for incoming freshmen, as well as restructuring its courses to excite and encourage currently-enrolled students to stay in engineering. NAU is the smallest of three Arizona universities offering undergraduate engineering education programs. While the larger University of Arizona and Arizona State University (ASU) enrollments have increased since 1998, NAU CENS enrollments in engineering has remained constant.[1] CENS Engineering personnel applied for and received a five- year grant under the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Engineering Schools of the West Initiative to aid in increasing ongoing enrollment.

There are basically two ways to increase enrollment (and thereby inferred, graduations) of engineering students: 1) increase the numbers of entering freshmen and transfer students, and 2) increase retention of currently-enrolled students. The topic of this paper is primarily associated with retention of sophomore engineering students.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Tester, J., & Hatfield, J. (2005, June), The Design4 Practice Sophomore Design Course: Adapting To A Changing Academic Environment Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15055

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