272036 Advancing Student Engagement in Early Engineering Education
Simply telling students to be engaged in engineering material (or that they will be using the material someday) is rarely enough of a motivating factor for their education. Instead, all professors can practice a variety of techniques to create highly motivated and engaged students. At Notre Dame, we have focused these efforts on large scale projects that require all engineering students to complete open-ended design problems with highly beneficial learning opportunities. In the first-year engineering course, a two-semester series contains three-projects which culminate in an open-ended design project, students create both computational models and physical systems of their own design. While many have not had the requisite classes to complete a highly functioning model, they are able to draw upon early math, chemistry and physics courses in an engineering design environment. In chemical engineering, project based learning continues through the sophomore year in the form of computation projects. Again, students are given freedom to choose projects based on their own interests, thereby designing their own educational goals for the semester. Unlike traditional lecture courses with only exams and homework problems for assessing student progress, these courses allow students to demonstrate understanding of engineering principles across classes and applied to systems that they find personally motivating.
I present here the current progress for project based learning at the University of Notre Dame, including specific projects from the first and second year courses taken by all chemical engineering students. In addition, I present other College of Engineering initiatives towards furthering student engagement and encouraging students to take an active role in their education and career goals. These projects include: creating electronic portfolios, introducing individual learning journals, providing undergraduate research opportunities, and crafting ungraded, computer based study aids.