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What Sticks with First-Year Engineering Students and Engineering Faculty in STEM Education Service-Learning Projects?

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

FPD 7: Beyond Course Content

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1369.1 - 24.1369.13



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Paper Authors


Jennifer Ocif Love Northeastern University

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Jennifer Love is a member of Northeastern University’s
Gateway Team, a group of teaching faculty expressly devoted to the First Year Engineering Program at Northeastern University. The focus of this team is on providing a consistent, comprehensive, and constructive educational experience that endorses the student-centered and professionally-oriented mission of Northeastern University.

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Susan F. Freeman Northeastern University


Daniel Allan Sullivan Center for STEM Education, Northeastern University

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BSCE Northeastern University 2011 Magna Cum Laude
Candidate for Masters in Urban and Regional Policy, Northeastern University 2014
Center for STEM Education, Program Coordinator from 2009
Engineers Without Borders, Honduras Design Lead and NE Regional Workshop Coordinator
EIT, MTEL Certification

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What Sticks with Millenial First Year Engineering Students in STEM Education Service-Learning Projects?The majority of today’s first year undergraduate engineering students come from the Millennialgeneration as they were typically born between 1982 – 2000. According to Howe and Strauss 1,the seven core traits of millennials include descriptive words such as special, sheltered,confident, team-oriented, conventional, achieving and pressured. According to Diane Oblinger 2,Millennials’ learning preferences tend toward teamwork, experiential activities, structure and theuse of technology. Their strengths include multitasking, goal orientation, positive attitudes,civic-mindedness and a collaborative style. Many of these millennial strengths and traits canaffect the success of service learning projects in the first-year.Fortunately, many of today’s first year engineering students enter Unnamed University withmemorable community service experiences from their hometowns which inspire them to pursuesimilar opportunities in their first year. As a result, faculty in the Unnamed Program at UnnamedUniversity developed service-oriented design projects (not direct service-learning projects) thathave a similar impact in demonstrating the connection between engineering and the communityas experiential service-learning projects do.3 The gains associated with a hands-on directservice-learning project were encouraging enough for faculty in this study to visit a pilot year ofexperiential service-learning projects in their course. During the 2012-2013 academic year, twofaculty members in the Unnamed Program offered STEM (science, technology, engineering andmathematics) service-learning projects to their students enrolled in a required Unnamed course.Twenty-seven (27) first year engineering students elected to fulfill one of their courserequirements with an engineering service-learning project involving middle school students inthe Unnamed city community. Except for some infrastructure support from UnnamedUniversity’s Center for Community Service and the College’s unnamed Center for Education, allaspects of the service-learning projects were managed by the two engineering faculty members.Based on these experiences, this paper will discuss 15 success factors for engineering faculty toconsider before introducing service-learning projects into their courses, especially if they will beinitially managing the service-learning projects all by themselves. The following is a subset ofthese success factors: 1. Partner with an organization that already has on-site teaching and/or administrative support. 2. Start every service-learning project with a theme (transportation, robotics, alternative energy, health, security). Align your service-learning projects with topics from Engineering Grand Challenges to help first year students connect with their majors. 3. Become actively involved on-site to model effective teaching strategies and classroom management techniques for your engineering students. 4. Allow your engineering students to choose a service-learning project to fulfill one of their course requirements, if they are so motivated. 5. Debrief and discuss each on-site experience with your engineering students immediately afterward so they can acknowledge their successes and address any failures before next week’s lesson. 6. Establish clear learning objectives for your engineering students so they can directly relate their service-learning experiences back to what they are learning in your engineering course. 7. Develop promising first year engineering students into mentors and leaders for the following year, either as a volunteer, work study or paid teaching assistant.As a result of these experiences, managing experiential service-learning projects in a first yearengineering course requires significant additional efforts by the motivated faculty member.However, building a team of engineering students who wish to continue the following year asservice-learning mentors alleviates some of the additional challenges on the faculty member andallows for the program to become more sustainable in order to achieve both short- and long-termlearning objectives. This paper will present qualitative data and evidence from the students andfaculty to support these success factors.Bibliography1. Howe, Neil and Strauss, William. Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.2. Oblinger, Diane. “Boomers & Gen-Xers Millennials: Understanding the New Students.” EDUCAUSE Review, July/August 2003: 37-47.3. Freeman, S., Whalen, R., Jaeger, B.K. and Forman, S.. “Service-Learning vs. Learning Service in First-year Engineering: If We Cannot Conduct First-Hand Service Projects, is it Still of Value?”. Proceedings of the American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, First Year Programs Division, 2011.

Love, J. O., & Freeman, S. F., & Sullivan, D. A. (2014, June), What Sticks with First-Year Engineering Students and Engineering Faculty in STEM Education Service-Learning Projects? Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23302

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