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Workshops on Fundamental Engineering Skills: A Graduate Student-Led Teaching Initiative

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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

Teaching and Pedagogy Issues in Graduate Education

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1404.1 - 24.1404.16



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Paper Authors


Justin M. Foley Applied Physics Program, University of Michigan

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Justin is a doctoral candidate in the Applied Physics Program at the University of Michigan. His dissertation research involves spectral manipulation, including broadband reflectance and narrowband filtering, using subwavelength dielectric gratings. He is currently the president of the student chapter of ASEE at the University of Michigan. In addition to his research and education interests, Justin holds a position with the Office of Technology Transfer analyzing prospective inventions developed at the University.

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Ashley M. Verhoff Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Michigan

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Ashley is a doctoral candidate in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan. Her research involves the development of a hybrid particle-continuum method for the computational analysis of hypersonic aerothermodynamics. She is funded through a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Ashley is currently the Treasurer of the student chapter of ASEE at the University of Michigan.

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John J. Pitre Jr. Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan

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John is a doctoral candidate in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on problems in biomechanics and biotransport including ultrasound viscoelastography, soft tissue fluid mechanics, and ultrasound velocimetry methods. He is currently the vice-president of the student chapter of the ASEE at the University of Michigan.

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Kathleen Marie Ropella Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan

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Kathleen M. Ropella is a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, with a research focus in magnetic resonance imaging. She earned her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Marquette University in 2012. Kathleen is currently the Secretary of the student chapter of ASEE at the University of Michigan.

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Workshops on Fundamental Engineering Skills: A Graduate Student-Led Teaching InitiativeUnlike graduate student teaching in the humanities, which often requires complete synthesis andownership of an entire course, teaching opportunities in science and engineering graduate studiesgenerally involve running pre-developed lab sections and discussions. These teachingassignments are generally straightforward, enabling graduate students to primarily focus on theirdissertation research, but they do not promote the curriculum development skills required formost faculty positions. To gain these skills, graduate students can seek outreach opportunitiesthat are generally limited to K-12 education. There are rarely avenues for undergraduatecurriculum development. Thus, there is an impetus for graduate student teaching initiatives thatprovide opportunities for curriculum development and supplemental instruction experience. Introductory engineering courses often teach important computer-based skills includingprogramming, data visualization, and computational analysis. While first-year students areexpected to develop these skills and use them in upper-level courses, there are a number offactors that may hinder this progression. For example, students may not fully appreciate therelevance of certain skills at the time they are introduced, or they may forget these skills by thetime they encounter their application. Furthermore, students transferring into a program fromanother institution may not have had the necessary instruction at all. These situations can leavestudents feeling unprepared in the classroom and for their future careers. Introducingsupplemental instruction to mitigate these apparent needs presents an excellent opportunity forgraduate students to gain important curriculum development and implementation experiencewhile making a positive impact on the undergraduate community.In this paper we discuss our graduate student-led teaching initiative that focuses on teachingundergraduates “fundamental engineering skills”. By first consulting with academic advisorsabout perceived needs within the College of Engineering, we have determined a list of tools onwhich to focus our efforts. Leveraging the enthusiasm and expertise of graduate studentsinterested in teaching, we have developed a workshop series to address these undergraduateneeds while also providing graduate students with the opportunity to suggest, develop andimplement curricula in an interactive computer environment. Graduate students can propose newworkshops via a written proposal and review process, and required practice teaching-sessionshelp ensure quality instruction. We use surveys to evaluate workshop content and instruction,and have instructors report results at biweekly meetings to promote reflection by the instructorand to encourage best practices as a group. To date, we have held workshop series on MATLAB,Mathematica and Excel, covering in part: introductory programming, ordinary differentialequations, analytical equation solving, plotting, and macros. While formal evaluation is ongoing,promising feedback from preliminary surveys and focus groups suggests our workshop series ishaving a positive influence on both the undergraduate and graduate engineering community.

Foley, J. M., & Verhoff, A. M., & Pitre, J. J., & Ropella, K. M. (2014, June), Workshops on Fundamental Engineering Skills: A Graduate Student-Led Teaching Initiative Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22794

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