2022 First-Year Engineering Experience

Hands-On Design Activities for Introduction to Engineering Courses to Accommodate Students of Varying Backgrounds

Presented at Technical Session M3A

In this workshop, participants will carry out three different design projects specifically intended for introductory engineering courses that include students with a wide range of prior exposure to engineering. The design projects engage students with a tentative interest in engineering and limited prior hands-on experience, while also challenging the skills and creativity of those students already committed to an engineering career. After the workshop, participants will be provided with classroom kits of materials that they can take with them back to their home institutions. The efforts to increase diversity in engineering have resulted in a challenge for introduction to engineering classes of supporting students with a wide range of prior exposure and degree of interest in engineering. Introductory courses now include some students, possibly from groups currently underrepresented in the engineering profession, that have been successfully recruited to consider engineering as a career. These students may have only a tentative interest in engineering and limited prior experience in hands-on activities. Simultaneously, introduction to engineering courses include students with a well-established interest in an engineering career and a considerable background in design and fabrication work. Successful introduction to engineering courses must engage and support both types of students. Design projects in these courses must meet several criteria that are challenging for the instructor. They should appeal to students' intrinsic interests; support hands-on skills development; be completed during a typical laboratory period; not require specialized equipment; be carried out in a range of physical spaces; and illustrate general engineering principles beyond the details of the project. We have developed and tested several projects that meet these requirements including a solar-powered phone charger, an electrodynamic loudspeaker, and a suite of microcontroller-based activities with a biomedical emphasis. The series of projects include extensive scaffolding to support novices, while also containing relevant open-ended design elements to challenge the creativity of the more experienced. Students show increases in confidence and interest along with decreases in anxiety concerning engineering. Females attained par with male students in design self-confidence. This workshop will allow participants to learn about and carry out these hands-on projects for themselves. Classroom kits will be provided for those interested. This project is supported by the National Science Foundation.

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