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Tracking Skills Development and Self-efficacy in a New First-year Engineering Design Course

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

FPD and DEEDs Joint Postcard Sessions

Tagged Divisions

First-Year Programs and Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors

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Jessica Daniels


Sophia T. Santillan Duke University

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Sophia Santillan joined Duke as an assistant professor of the practice in summer 2017 and will work with the First Year Design experience for first-year engineering majors. As a STEM teacher and professor, she is interested in the effect of emerging technology and research on student learning and classroom practice. After earning her bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from Duke, Santillan taught at the United States Naval Academy as an assistant professor. Recently, she worked at the high school level, where she taught across the four-year math curriculum, including advanced courses. She also designed, proposed, and taught two introductory engineering courses for high school students.

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Ann Saterbak Duke University

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Ann Saterbak is Professor of the Practice in the Biomedical Department and Director of First-Year Engineering at Duke University. Saterbak is the lead author of the textbook, Bioengineering Fundamentals. Saterbak’s outstanding teaching was recognized through university-wide and departmental teaching awards. In 2013, Saterbak received the ASEE Biomedical Engineering Division Theo C. Pilkington Outstanding Educator Award. For her contribution to education within biomedical engineering, she was elected Fellow in the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Society of Engineering Education.

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Tracking Skills Development and Self-Efficacy in a New First-Year Engineering Design Course

This evidence-based practice paper describes the development and implementation of surveys and a focus group to understand the impact of a new first-year engineering design course. With the intent of adding a practical design experience for first-year students, the Engineering Design and Communication course was introduced as a pilot program in the fall of 2017 at Duke University. Over the course of a semester, students work in teams to learn and apply the engineering design process to a client-based problem drawn from a community partner. In the course, the students should learn to 1) apply the engineering design process to meet the needs of a client; 2) iteratively prototype a solution using appropriate tools and materials; 3) work collaboratively on a team; and 4) communicate the critical steps in the design process in written, oral, and visual formats. The course was created following many best practices in first-year engineering education.

This paper focuses specifically on how the course contributes to students’ confidence about themselves as engineers, students’ understanding of the engineering design process, and students’ progress in technical skills. The paper also assesses students’ satisfaction with the course. This information is designed to help leaders in the engineering school comprehend the specific impact of the first-year design course, in addition to laying the foundation for a long-term retention study.

There are two parts of this study: online surveys and a focus group. The participants for the surveys included subsets of the 48 freshmen students in the course. To conduct this data collection, three surveys were administered to generate paired data used to investigate trends over time. To generate qualitative data and gain insight into what might be underlying the results of the surveys, a focus group session was conducted.

Statistical analyses, including two-sample t-tests, paired t-tests, and chi-squared tests, were conducted with the survey data to determine significance of changes over time. Qualitative data from the open-ended questions was evaluated by frequency of response. Major findings from this study include: students definitively progressed in crafting, CAD, and rapid prototyping over the course of the semester; participants’ confidence in each step of the engineering design process increased; and the course was successful in providing students with real-world experiences that positively contributed to their engineering self-efficacy.

Daniels, J., & Santillan, S. T., & Saterbak, A. (2018, June), Tracking Skills Development and Self-efficacy in a New First-year Engineering Design Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31152

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