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Exploring Innovative Ideas, Projects and Activities Used in “Introduction to Engineering” Classes to Motivate Engineering Students

[+] Author Affiliations
K. Larsen, A. Hossain

Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA

Paper No. IMECE2016-66841, pp. V005T06A007; 7 pages
  • ASME 2016 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 5: Education and Globalization
  • Phoenix, Arizona, USA, November 11–17, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5057-2
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


This is a paper on the importance of having interesting and engaging projects, demonstrations and other course activities in an “Introduction to Engineering” class. The primary objectives of an “Introduction to Engineering” course are two-fold. First, to expose students to the field of engineering so they can know if engineering is right for them and second, to prepare them for a major in engineering, if they decide to continue further. In order to properly portray what engineering is, the “Introduction to Engineering” classes need to provide a thorough overview of the different aspects of engineering, including good engineering projects, demonstrations, field trips, and other activities. Most “Introduction to Engineering” classes have a lecture component that goes over the basics of engineering with some physical demonstrations or activities. However, how effective these demonstrations/activities are in engaging students’ interest in engineering is questionable. If the activities are lacking or are not well chosen, then students will not appreciate engineering, and may choose other academic disciplines. This paper presents in detail many interesting projects, demonstrations and other activities that have been successfully used in “Introduction to Engineering” classes taught at several colleges and universities helping engineering educators to teach, excite and engage the students. Some examples of these projects include; building bridges out of balsa wood and testing them for the strength to weight ratio, flying rockets and learning about projectile motion and aerodynamics, building high mileage vehicles and learning about teamwork and design optimization. Results from the evaluation of these classes showed ratings between very good to excellent, with the students specifically commenting very positively about the projects and other activities. Finally, this paper discusses the optimal integration of these projects and activities in the classroom along with final recommendations for an effective overall course curriculum for an “Introduction to Engineering” class.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME



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