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Use of a Professional Practice Simulation in a First-Year Introduction to Engineering Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD X: First-Year Design with Projects, Modeling, and Simulation

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1585.1 - 22.1585.9



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Paper Authors


Naomi C. Chesler University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Naomi C. Chesler is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering with an affiliate appointment in Educational Psychology. Her research interests include vascular biomechanics, hemodynamics and cardiac function as well as the factors that motivate students to pursue and persist in engineering careers, with a focus on women and under-represented minorities.

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Cynthia M. D'Angelo University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Cynthia D’Angelo, Ph.D. has a background in physics and science education. She has always been interested in improving science instruction and most recently, using simulations and games to help facilitate learning. Among other things, she is interested in how students make use of multimedia representations of scientific concepts in games. She is currently the research director for the Epistemic Games Group at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Golnaz Arastoopour University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Golnaz is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Before becoming interested in education, she studied Mechanical Engineering and Spanish. Golnaz has also worked as a computer science instructor, high school mathematics teacher, and STEM curriculum designer. Her research interests are how technology can be used as an effective and engaging teaching tool, specifically in engineering education.

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David Williamson Shaffer University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Use of a professional practice simulation in a first year Introduction to Engineering courseAt the college level, administrators would like first-year Introduction to Engineering courses toretain nearly all students and excite them about their intended career. At the department level,faculty members would like an outcome to be students knowledgeable about their discipline andhow it differs from other disciplines. Students would like these courses to be fun and interesting,hands-on, and not onerous. Many basic skills are often covered in first-year engineering coursessuch as how to log on to the College computer system, how to use the library, proper citation ofreferences, and best practices for oral and poster presentations. Recent evidence suggests thatintroducing design into the first year curriculum is highly beneficial, which necessarily includestraining in keeping a design notebook, interactions with teammates and clients, the opportunityto complete at least one design-build-test cycle and guidance in the selection and justification ofa final design. Few first-year courses can meet all of these demands with, often, rotating coursedirectors, minimal resources and students with diverse backgrounds new to the demands of acollege-level engineering curriculum.To address these concerns, we developed a simulation module for first-year Introduction toEngineering courses that can be implemented with minimal resources by course directors with noexpertise in an engineering discipline. The module provides an introduction to multipleengineering disciplines, library skills and citation requirements, presentation best practices, andengineering design. Importantly, specific engineering knowledge and skills are not required tocomplete the two design-build-test cycles in the simulation; instead the emphasis is on managingconflicting client requirements, making trade-offs in selecting a final design and justifyingdesign choices. The simulation requires students to take on the role of an intern in a fictitiouscompany. This type role-playing has been shown to be a highly engaging mode of learning.Prior work has also shown that epistemic games—learning environments where students game-play to develop the epistemic frame of a profession—increases students’ understanding of andinterest in the profession.The simulation runs on a designated server through an internet browser. The current formatrequires 11 hours of class time, which is roughly equivalent to a 1-credit course at our institution.For 5 groups of 5 students, two trained undergraduate student assistants are required. Preliminaryresults suggest that (a) the game was playable and enjoyable for students; (b) it has the potentialto increase persistence in engineering; and (c) it develops students’ engineering design skills.The full paper will present additional details on the simulation and an analysis of pilot testingresults with 40 first-year engineering students at our institution.

Chesler, N. C., & D'Angelo, C. M., & Arastoopour, G., & Shaffer, D. W. (2011, June), Use of a Professional Practice Simulation in a First-Year Introduction to Engineering Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18694

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