This issue marks the introduction of a new feature – “Looking Ahead” – that presents short, 1000 word “extended abstracts” that describe a work-in-progress that has the potential for significant impact on engineering education. Associate Editor Renee Clark has overseen the selection and peer review of two such papers. While we will continue to seek out projects that possess such potential and have them undergo a full review, we are also inviting authors to submit papers for consideration using the format described in the “Guide to Authors.”
The issue also features a most provocative and timely opinion piece from Alice L. Pawley based on a invited talk she delivered at this year’s ASEE National Conference in Tampa. A one page overview of Alice’s paper can be found in the October issue of PRISM, and also will appear in the October issue of the Journal of Engineering Education.
The issue also contains a “Special Issue” guest edited by Teri Reed on the mid-years experience – those important second and third years between freshmen and senior coursework. Teri has selected four papers, three of which appear and this issue and a fourth that has already been published in AEE.
Finally, we also feature nine papers that span the spectrum of engineering education. We are especially pleased that two of these papers are from international authors and settings.
Amanda Bao describes a teaching innovation of introducing screencasts into her Civil Engineering courses in order to improve student learning outcomes, especially those with hearing disabilities. These screencasts are screen captures of learning materials, broken into detailed steps with narration and synchronized captions provided by an instructor. Consequently, students are able to follow the instructor’s problem presentation step-by-step to better understand the underlying principles.
Eric Constans and colleagues describe using a large-scale, multi-semester design project to integrate six mechanical engineering courses. The project, a bench-scale hybrid powertrain, is built up – component by component – as students advance through the curriculum. While they found that the design project had no measurable effect on long-term subject matter retention, it did positively impact design thinking and skill.
David Knight and colleagues address acclimating rising sophomores to global issues. Their paper describes Virginia Tech’s Rising Sophomore Abroad Program, an integrated class experience combined with an international field trip that has experienced rapid growth over the past few years. Their evaluation demonstrates that students achieved a range of global learning outcomes in both the class as well as the short-term study abroad module.
Shaui Li and colleagues focused on the best way to convey abstract knowledge on embedded software to computer science students in order to bridge the gap between their limited background and curriculum requirements. They propose a project to develop and test a mobile robot platform combined with a peer competition with the robots developed by other students. Students must develop a mobile robot using commercial sensors and actuators for simultaneous light source seeking and obstacle avoidance. They found that the project and competition stimulated students’ interest in this subject and provided them with a concrete understanding of embedded systems. The study was conducted at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Rui Lima and colleagues present a seven-year study in Portugal focused on the development of Calculus instruction using a Project- Based Learning (PBL) approach. They have analyzed forty-two interdisciplinary student project reports that collectively offer sound evidence for the application of the requested Calculus learning outcomes. Specifically, they found that PBL was successful as an active learning process for Calculus that involved independent learning through the interdisciplinary resolution of problems related to students’ engineering professional profiles.
Lee Martin and Colin Dixon have focused on how the Maker Movement can provide a context for high school students’ learning and developing interest in design and early engineering competencies. They designed their innovation around a core pedagogical commitment to meeting youth “where they are.” The paper describes the design of a mobile workshop and the pedagogical approach and offers two cases of educational programs implementing these models, one from an out-of-school context and the other from an in-school context.
Rebecca M. Reck, R. S. Sreenivas, and Michael C. Loui have focused on using kits that allow students to take home laboratory equipment in order to complete experiments on their own time. Such kits expand access to hands-on experiences for online courses and to budget-strapped campuses. To assess students’ achievement of the learning objectives and understand their experience, the authors collected a variety of data, including graded laboratory reports, end-of-semester surveys, focus groups, student reflections after each laboratory, midterm exam scores, final exam scores, and concept inventory scores. They found no significant differences in the achievement of the learning objectives or in the students’ experiences.
Scott C. Streiner and Cheryl Ann Bodnar leverage Actor Network Theory (ANT) and other theories on dimensions of scale to develop a framework for the local diffusion of a digital gamified homework platform called 3D GameLab. As a case study, they provide findings around the key actors in the local curricula scale-up network and explore the relationships between these actors and how they work together to ensure an effective implementation. Their model serves as a guide for engineering education practitioners seeking to expand the reach of local educational innovations.
Stephen Secules and Wesley Lawson offer an innovative approach to teaching a required introductory C programming course for electrical engineering (EE) students. Their novel course utilizes hardware-based projects to motivate students to master language syntax and implement key programming concepts and best practices. Students who completed the novel course, were more likely to feel that they fit in as electrical engineers and less likely to believe that programming was “not real engineering” when compared to those completing a more traditional course.