This evidence-based practice paper describes the plans for the development of a large private institution’s one-semester introductory engineering course to a full-year cornerstone. Several universities have implemented a two-semester cornerstone model. This paper builds on the past research in making this transition, and surveys students to determine their motivations. The year-long course will be centered around their goals. This study addresses the components students enjoy in the one-semester cornerstone, what gaps they would like to fill in a second semester, and their expectations for the first year in the college of engineering. An existing introduction to engineering major course would be electively replaced by a pilot section of students in the project-based second semester course. The curriculum in the second semester cornerstone should contain the content from the intro to major course, transition students between the first year and the rest of their coursework, and provide additional support for major selection. In the development of this course, the survey answers the research question of whether or not students would electively enroll in a year-long cornerstone.
From a grant provided in 1993 by the National Science Foundation, a large private university’s introduction to engineering and design course covers the engineering disciplines, design projects, and laboratory exercises. The introduction to engineering and design course is a project-based course with learning objectives on project management, teamwork, technical communication, engineering experiments, and design. 300 students per semester, or 82% of first-year students in the college of engineering enroll in the introduction to engineering course. The introduction to engineering course is one of the only project-based courses in this large private university. From the past years of course evaluation surveys, students find the course to be helpful when determining their major and interests. Students also comment that they would like to further develop the projects created in the one-semester course.
To further develop skills of working in a team on a project, a second-semester supplementary course has been proposed. This course would be an optional replacement to an introduction to major course. The introduction to major courses at the large private university are the traditional lecture based format. The second semester would be based around a multidisciplinary semester long design project, with lectures and recitation focused on project development and project management skills.
In order to develop curriculum, students that took the introduction to engineering in Fall 2019 were surveyed in order to determine what factors that motivate students should be considered when creating a second semester cornerstone course. Questions that were asked include:
What value do you place on your first-year engineering experiences?
What skills would you like to further develop through an additional semester?
The 115 teaching assistants (TAs) of the introduction to engineering course were also surveyed. The introduction to engineering course has undergraduate TAs that span most majors at the college of engineering, including majors that are not required to take the introduction to engineering course. The TAs are second year, third year, and fourth-year students. TAs were asked the following questions about how the intro to engineering course affected their later classes:
Would you have taken a second semester of the introduction to engineering course?
How could the cornerstone experience connect to your courses better?
The feedback obtained from first-year students and TAs in the survey provides insight on the desire for a second semester of the cornerstone course. Students at the large private university have anecdotally requested additional project-based courses and fewer lecture oriented classes. The year-long cornerstone course could prepare students for their design projects in the second and third year, capstone projects, and industry projects post graduation. This survey will be used to determine whether additional research is necessary on the implementation of the second semester cornerstone, and whether or not the pilot section would be electively taken by students.
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