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Why Am I Learning This? Using Everyday Examples in Engineering to Engage Female (And Male) Students in the Classroom

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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

WIED: Curricular Undergraduate Student Programs

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1377.1 - 24.1377.15



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Paper Authors

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Tonya Lynn Nilsson P.E. Santa Clara University

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Improved Student Learning with Everyday Examples in EngineeringToo often new engineering concepts are presented to students with little to no indication ofwhere these concepts exist in our day to day lives. If examples are provided, they are commonlyapplications that are still beyond the everyday experience of our students, e.g. bending of beamsin a loaded building versus bending of skateboard carrying a rider. Educational studies indicatethat learning and understanding are enhanced if the learner can tie new concepts to existingknowledge, especially knowledge they have gained experientially. To promote improvedstudent performance and retention, the NSF funded Extension Project: ENGAGE has partneredwith 70 schools to incorporate the use of Everyday Examples in Engineering, E3s, into math,science and engineering instruction.This work presents the results of using E3s in a sophomore-level Mechanics of Materials course.Student performance on exam questions from three sections that did not receive instruction usingE3's were compared with student performance from five sections taught using E's. The onlychange in the course instruction was the replacement of typical textbook examples to everydayexamples. All students included in the study were taught by the same instructor. Long-termretention of course concepts was also reviewed by implementing a concept quiz on the first dayof a junior level course that students take anywhere from six to nine months after the completionof the Mechanics of Materials course. The concept quiz has been administered twice: once tostudents from the three sections taught without E3s and once to students from three of thesections taught with E3s.Results of this work show that both student exam performance and material retention improvedas a result of using E3s. Course topics where the existing teaching methods already resulted instrong student exam performance saw the least impact on exam grades from the inclusion of E3s,but student retention in these topics was noticeably improved. This would suggest that facultywould see the greatest immediate gains by including E3s in those areas where their students havehistorically had poor performance. However, for long-term material retention, E3s should beincluded whenever possible to introduce new engineering concepts.

Nilsson, T. L. (2014, June), Why Am I Learning This? Using Everyday Examples in Engineering to Engage Female (And Male) Students in the Classroom Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23310

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