June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.1242.1 - 13.1242.11
The influence of a hands-on research experience on undergraduate student perceptions of engineering research
Results of a multi-method study of both a national pool of applicants and nine participants selected for an eight-week summer research program in a university mechanical engineering department are the focus of this paper. Funded by the National Science Foundation through a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site grant, the program paired undergraduate engineering students with professors engaged in experimental research during the summer of 2007. Students were competitively selected from a pool of nationwide applicants, and nine participants were chosen. Students participated in research focused on experimental methods in mechanical engineering, ranging from bone mechanics to laser micro-machining to fluid dynamics. The program also featured a variety of activities including weekly seminars on experimental methods, field trips to local engineering companies, and a poster presentation at the conclusion of the program.
A survey of 14 REU program applicants provided academic and career interest profiles, including high school activities, origins of their choice of engineering as a college major, the perceived benefits of an REU program, and ethnic diversity. The applicant survey also allowed feedback regarding the effectiveness of promotional materials used by the host institution, and how students learned of the REU opportunity. Results of before-program and after-program paper and pencil surveys and moderator-led focus groups among the nine REU participants are also discussed. The surveys and focus groups addressed program outcome issues such as perceptions of engineering research and desire to pursue graduate studies, liked most and liked least aspects of the REU experience, and ways the program could be improved. Contrary to expectations, the REU experience resulted in some participants deciding against enrolling in graduate engineering school or pursuing careers in engineering research. Results will be used to inform both programmatic and promotional decisions for the planned 2008 and 2009 site programs. The paper will also discuss additional implications of an REU program for faculty who plan to apply for similar NSF grants as well as those who plan to promote such programs to their students.
A National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site was conducted during the summer of 2007 at Southern Methodist University (SMU). The theme of the program was “Experimental Methods in Mechanical Engineering,” and was chosen due to the large percentage of faculty working in various aspects of experimental research. The theme of experimental methods is also attractive since hands-on research is recognized as an effective method of retention.1,2 Engineering students also tend to be “active learners”, meaning that they learn more effectively from participating in an activity rather than listening to a lecture.3 Undergraduate research also is a recognized method encouraging students to pursue graduate studies.4 Research laboratories that participated in the program were the
Willis, D., & Krueger, P., & Kendrick, A. (2008, June), The Influence Of A Hands On Research Experience On Undergraduate Student Perceptions Of Engineering Research Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3583
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