The engineering program is growing exponentially and the department needs to capitalize on that growth in order to sustain it. The program’s ability to retain students past the first year is essential. The course load is heavy with approximately 18 hours per semester expected for a student to stay on track. The Engineering Program utilizes both innovative classroom experiences and peer mentor support systems in the first year engineering program. First year engineering students experience ENGR 1411 (Introduction to Engineering) and ENGR 2113(Statics). First, freshman engineering students are provided with four real world engineering experiences during ENGR 1411. The first experience includes an environmental engineering field day where students learn what engineering looks like from a field engineering standpoint. Furthermore, students join a manufacturing engineering tour and learn about the numerous engineering disciplines that are needed in a manufacturing setting. The third trip is to a military installation where students see mechanical and electrical engineering in action through simulators. On the fourth trip students participate in a field experience with city engineers. This experience includes both in process and built city projects, roadway design, low impact development structures and more. Students gain an understanding of the entire process from project request to design to permitting and finally construction. These experiences allow students to feel “part” of the program and begin to make connections with their cohorts and professionals whose endorsement will be vital when entering the workforce. The interaction with industry from day one provides high impact learning, student engagement, and connect the classroom experience to the profession of engineering. Second, ENGR 2113 students are presented an open ended project where they are tasked to demonstrate a concept from statics. This requires the student team to design and build in order to demonstrate. This open-ended project concept is further developed in ENGR 2223 (Fluids), ENGR 2533(Dynamics) and ENGR 2213(Thermodynamics). The primary goal for this classroom adaption is to focus on the concepts and in doing so ensure more students are able to progress successfully through their engineering curriculum. With a greater focus on concepts and application, the expectation is that students will be better prepared for industry. Third, chapter exams have been revamped into 50/50 competencies. These competencies are content based versus chapter based which enhances a student’s connection within content. This method encourages students to focus on the overarching concepts of the material, with the expectation that students will have greater retention. Finally, the development of the Engineering Learning Laboratory for Statics allows upperclassmen to mentor and support first year engineering student. Preliminary data supports this laboratory as scores on exams are higher for those that use this laboratory versus those that do not. These methods have been assessed in two student cohorts and the data to be presented is preliminary with a sample size of approximately 15 per cohort.
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