2022 First-Year Engineering Experience

GIFTS: Engaging First-Year Mechanical Engineering Students in Spreadsheets and Programming

Presented at Technical Session T2

In a course focused on introducing first-year mechanical engineering students to spreadsheets and programming, there are many challenges to engaging students in the material. This paper focuses on the MEE 114L Introduction to Programming course at the University of Dayton and changes to the course structure designed to improve student engagement and learning. The Introduction to Programming course provides students with an introduction to the application and use of computer programs for mechanical engineers. The 1 credit hour course focuses on building foundational skills in use of spreadsheets, plotting, data manipulation, and basic programming through two software tools: Microsoft Excel and MATLAB. The course is taught in a flipped classroom format with students learning new concepts outside of the classroom through an interactive online textbook and class sessions devoted to time for students to work on problems in the online textbook and software-based projects with assistance from peers and instructors. In the initial implementation of this course, students spent most weeks in the semester working solely in the online textbook and completed software-based projects during 4 dedicated project weeks during the semester. Both the instructors and students observed challenges with this structure that were related to limited direct exposure with the software tools. In the Spring 2022 semester, changes were made to address these challenges by reorganizing the course structure to engage the students with the software tools each week of the semester through weekly software-based project activities. While the course is currently underway, the instructors have observed that student programming skills have improved in comparison to previous semesters and that the reorganized course structure is beneficial for both student engagement and learning.

  1. Yucheng Li University of Dayton [biography]
  2. Shanpu Fang University of Dayton [biography]
Download paper (145 KB)

Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper? Visit the ASEE document repository at peer.asee.org for more tools and easy citations.