The freshmen introduction to engineering course in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University is designed to introduce freshmen engineering majors to the tools and concepts used in engineering and reinforce the applications of math, physics and chemistry from the core curriculum.
The engineering programing at James Madison University was established in 2008.1 New programs have many challenges, some of which include unknown characteristics of students and a lack of established norms for both students and faculty. Many pieces of the curriculum were still being developed. Due to these challenging and changing circumstances, an iterative approach was used to refine the program’s freshmen introduction to engineering course, ENGR 112. Students taking the freshmen engineering course at JMU were found to have significantly different levels of math, chemistry and physics backgrounds. One of the goals of the freshmen engineering course was to provide a chance to practice the applications of fundamental math and engineering science. The fundamental properties addressed through the development of an integrated experiential-learning approach for tool training and engineering science included applications of force and weight, force distribution, density, specific gravity, and applied geometry. Additional course goals for the freshmen engineering course discussed herein included exposing engineering students to modern engineering tools and understanding and practicing appropriate safety protocols.
There are twelve objectives for the freshmen course, which address 10 ABET a-k topics. As part of the described module:
• Students calculate the volume and density of various materials
• Students interpret engineering drawings to relate principles and equations in geometry.
• Students perform a force balance to balance a hinged load.
• Students create an engineering drawing to design and build a balance for two objects.
• Students receive an orientation to basic tools and safety in the machine shop.
• Students must successfully complete a competency based lab and shop safety quiz.
• Students build and test the mechanism they have designed to balance the point and distributed forces.
As a result of this approach, students gained confidence in relating abstract drawings to physical materials. Students also gained hands-on experience relating basic engineering concepts about density, materials, statics and dynamics. Students expressed increased confidence in using basic tools and relating those tools to engineering science principles. Many students who had no previous experience with basic tools and shop techniques went on to apply and work as undergraduate teaching assistants in the shop after completing this assignment.
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