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Using Undergraduate Mentors to Deliver Engineering Content to Calculus for Increased Persistence in Engineering

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1651.1 - 22.1651.10



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Paper Authors


J. Neubert University of North Dakota

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Jeremiah Neubert is Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of North Dakota. He conducted research and taught at Cambridge University. Prior to that Dr. Neubert attended the University of Wisconsin and obtained a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering as well as Masters of Science degrees in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering. During his time at the University of Wisconsin he served as a National Science GK12 fellow where he worked with a team of high school teachers and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to develop modules for secondary school educators.

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Deborah Worley University of North Dakota

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Naima Kaabouch Electrical Engineering Department, University of North Dakota

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Using Undergraduate Mentors to Deliver Engineering Content to Calculus for Increased Persistence in EngineeringDespite significant improvements made in engineering education, persistence rates remain lessthan desirable [1][2]. Some of the most significant factors to persistence in engineering is astudent’s quantitative skills, both perceived and real, study habits, and commitment toengineering. Students that leave engineering to pursue another degree most often citemath/calculus as the most influential factors in their decision [3]. This work presents a programfor underscoring the importance of calculus to engineering. Moreover, the program willstrengthen students’ ties to their chosen department and help them to feel as if they belong to acommunity. The objective is to retain incoming engineering students, especially those who havehad limited prior math opportunities, and to generate excitement about calculus. To accomplishthis goal, we will use a two pronged approach.First, we will develop a series of modules to be paired with Calculus I and Calculus II. Themodules will demonstrate to students how calculus is applied to solve real world engineeringproblems. It is important, as educators, to realize that ―the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but afire to be kindled‖--Plutarch. So, while engineering students may not be interested in math, theyare intrigued by the application of math to problem solving in the field. In this context,emphasizing the importance of calculus to engineers will encourage deeper student learning.Second, the project fosters student persistence in engineering by developing a mentorshipprogram that will aid in the delivery of the engineering modules. The mentors will be junior andsenior engineering students that participate in a workshop on effective mentoring. The mentorswill meet with calculus students in a small group setting on a weekly basis to work through themodules. These meetings will provide the students with real time feedback on their problemsolving techniques as well as a glimpse at the methods used by others. The mentors, as peers,will provide contemporary, institution-specific advice on succeeding in calculus that facultycannot. The mentor relationships will also be used to facilitate early involvement in professionalengineering activities, such as those accessed through membership in the American Society ofMechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).This will strengthen the students ties to engineering making the transition to another majorunattractive.The evaluation plan for this project will incorporate a mixed-methods approach to data collectionin determining if there is a correlation between engineering retention rates and student success incalculus classes that use problem-based learning modules with peer mentors. Responding to thisquestion will aid in meeting four project evaluation goals: (1) assess student learning ofengineering-specific calculus concepts; (2) assess student comfort levels with engineering-specific calculus concepts; (3) compare engineering retention rates of students enrolled in theengineering-specific calculus course and those who were not enrolled; (4) implement problem-based learning (PBL) modules and mentor-led discussion as teaching tools.References[1] C. Grattis, B. Hill, A. Lachowsky, "A Successful Peer Mentoring Program," Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, June 2007.[2] M. Johnson, S. Sheppard, ―Students Entering and Exiting the Engineering Pipeline— Identifying Key Decision Points and Trends,‖ Proceedings of the Frontiers in Education Conference, November 2002, pp. S3C-13 – S3C-19.[3] R. Hensel, J. Sigler , A. Lowery, ―Breaking The Cycle Of Calculus Failure: Models of Early Math Intervention to Enhance Engineering Retention,‖ Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, 2008.

Neubert, J., & Worley, D., & Kaabouch, N. (2011, June), Using Undergraduate Mentors to Deliver Engineering Content to Calculus for Increased Persistence in Engineering Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18972

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