Grant improves introduction to engineering class

March 26, 2003

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PLATTEVILLE- A UW-Platteville Opportunity Fund grant was allocated to implement improvements to the Introduction to Engineering class.

On a nationwide scale, retention rate for first-year engineering students is about 50 percent. The course Introduction to Engineering was implemented to educate freshman engineering students. However, the current format of the class is largely lecture orientated, and improvements to the course-by creating a more hands-on atmosphere-are needed.

The introduction of hands-on projects provides a learning environment that fosters team-work skills, creates an experience where students can visualize application of math and science in regards to engineering, promotes close student-teacher interaction and enhances students' interest in engineering, having the overall effect of elevating their chances for success.

"Our inherent goal is retention. It is also a way to smoothly transition the students into another program if they decide engineering is not for them," said Albulkhair Masoom, professor and chair of general engineering.

The curriculum was designed to be multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary and challenging, yet inexpensive. The course will be divided into two semesters and each class of Introduction to Engineering will be one credit. Both semesters will include elements of general standards, ethics, collaborative efforts, group dynamics, refreshment of technical skills and presentations of projects.

According to the grant proposal, there is a wide variety of project types included in the newly designed and upgraded Introduction to Engineering class curriculum. Projects included are: a project focusing on energy, heat, work and power of the human body; demonstrating the application aspect of some basic concepts in chemistry and physics; the science of sports project, which illustrates the basic concept in mechanics and simple machines; the bridge design project, which is geared to civil engineering and statics and a project involving wind and solar energy involving electrical and mechanical engineering concepts.

"We want to provide an atmosphere that prepares students for what to expect in the future in the workplace and industry," said Masoom.

More than 550 students each year will have exposure to the projects. Introduction to Engineering is required of all engineering majors and transfer students.

The proposal for the grant was constructed and compiled by Abulkhair Masoom, professor and chair of general engineering, Fahmida Masoom, lecturer of general engineering, and Lang Wah Lee, professor of mechanical engineering.

The UW-Platteville Foundation Opportunity Fund awarded nearly $45,000 for 15 grants this year. The UWP Foundation initiated the fund program in 1998-99, and the total number of grants this far is 86, with a total monetary value of $411, 000.

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