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The Effect of Project-Based Introduction to Engineering Course on Retention in Engineering Programs

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2018 ASEE Zone IV Conference


Boulder, Colorado

Publication Date

March 25, 2018

Start Date

March 25, 2018

End Date

March 27, 2018

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Paper Authors


Abolfazl Amin Utah Valley University

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Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University
M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University
B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University

Engineering Professor at Utah Valley University since 1990.
Instructed Mathematics and Physics as an adjunct at University of Utah and Westminster College.

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Kyle Frederick Larsen P.E. Eastern Washington University

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Dr. Larsen currently teaches mechanical engineering at Eastern Washington University. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from California State University Sacramento and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Brigham Young University.

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The main objectives of any introduction to engineering course are: to spark an initial interest in engineering, to expose students to different disciplines in engineering, and to educate them about overall engineering profession. Recently, there have been a lot of emphases on STEM related programs across the nation and on the need for more capable, enthusiastic, and effective future engineers. Over many years, it has been realized that basic freshman and sophomore courses in engineering play an important role on retention, preparation of students for upper-division courses, and ultimately for a productive career in engineering.

Most universities and colleges have some introductory course in engineering. The credits vary from one to three hours. Some are discipline based and some are general. Some include basic laboratory experiments and projects and some are taught traditionally in a lecture type setting. Most try to emphasize the importance of mathematics and physical sciences in engineering and the need for understanding fundamental principles of science and engineering. It is crucial for students to realize that engineering uses mathematics as a tool to apply basic principles in Physics and Chemistry to practical problems. Over many years, it has been realized that the drop-out rate of engineering students right after completion of Introduction to Engineering course is about 30-35%. That is too high considering the fact a few more students decide to change majors while completing their mathematics and science course increasing the drop-out rate by 10-20%. The prevention of losing potentially good engineers has been the focus of this research. To achieve some of those goals in our university, we have taught our Introduction to Engineering course three different ways and have compared their effects on student retention. These three methodologies encompass project-based teaching and teamwork versus traditional lecturing. Three sections of this course were taught for three to four years without projects, with many projects, and with one semester-long project. This paper will provide the results of our efforts to enhance and improve retention rate in our introductory course and in our overall engineering program. This paper will also provide some suggestions for future investigations and for identifying other factors related to retention in engineering programs.

Amin, A., & Larsen, K. F. (2018, March), The Effect of Project-Based Introduction to Engineering Course on Retention in Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Zone IV Conference, Boulder, Colorado.

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