Integrating an Introduction to Engineering Experience into a University Seminar Course
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Retention statistics show that the most drastic decline in retention rates for engineering and engineering technology majors at Texas State University occur after the first and second years. To address this issue, the LBJ Institute of STEM Education and Research at Texas State is employing a multi-faceted approach to implement proven strategies for increasing student retention as a part of an NSF IUSE (Improving Undergraduate STEM Education) grant, Texas State STEM Rising Stars. One of these strategies is to introduce a new first-year introduction to engineering/engineering technology course that was designed to support student retention. A new course could not simply be added to the existing curriculum of the university’s engineering and engineering technology degrees, however, as state law capped the hours required for an undergraduate degree. Instead, the researchers customized an introduction to the university freshman seminar course for engineering and engineering technology majors. This course design adapted elements from successful first-year introductory classes in Engineering and Engineering Technology at other universities. Besides fostering a learning community between Engineering and Engineering Technology students, the objectives of the new course include: (1) introduction of design and problem solving through project-based learning and (2) familiarization with the careers paths and practices of Engineering and Engineering Technology through tours and talks by industry representatives and faculty and (3) providing a common experience that introduces university resources to support the development of the students and prepares them for academic success. The pilot section of Introduction to Engineering in University Seminar was offered in Fall 2015. As these seminar courses are offered in the fall semesters, the researchers will be able to analyze changes in engineering design self-efficacy over the semester and conduct focus groups with students to refine the course content prior to an expanded second round of experimental sections that will be put in place for Fall 2016. This paper presents this work in progress, including preliminary results and lessons learned from this integration of Introduction to Engineering with University Seminar.