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Engineering Educators Share Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning at ASEE-PSW Conference at BCOE


Engineering Educators Share Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning at ASEE-PSW Conference at BCOE

April 25, 2013

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More than 100 educators from the Pacific Southwest Section of the American Society for Engineering Education gathered at the Bourns College of Engineering at UC Riverside April 18-20, 2013, to share innovative approaches to recruiting, retaining and educating students in engineering.

The theme for the annual conference was "Engineering Education in a Global Context" and presentations covered a variety of topics, including giving U.S. students the tools to operate in a multicultural, global context; generating interest among young people in engineering as an educational and career path; retaining students who choose that path; engaging traditionally underrepresented groups; and using innovative technology and techniques in the classroom and online to understand and ensure student success.

Reza Abbaschian welcome at ASEE-PSW conference"The conference showcased the energy and dedication that our members are demonstrating every day in improving engineering education," said Reza Abbaschian, dean of the Bourns College of Engineering, member of the ASEE-PSW executive board, and chair of the conference (photo, left). "With demand outstripping the supply of qualified engineers in our nation and throughout the world, addressing these issues is essential to the quality of life for future generations. Our economy is driven by innovation and engineers are the source of that innovation."

The High Tech Education working group of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness reported that in order for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global marketplace, it must increase the number of engineering and computer science graduates it produces.

Bourns College of Engineering Professors Frank Vahid (Department of Computer Science and Engineering), Tom Stahovich (Department of Mechanical Engineering), and their research teams presented novel technological approaches to teaching and evaluation.

Alex EdgcombVahid and Ph.D. candidate Alex Edgcomb (photo, left) presented their work in developing a set of parameterized interactive web-based activities that aid in the learning of STEM-related subjects. They are working to develop a repository of 100 of these activities that web-based material authors can instantiate to create powerful learning tools. Previously, Vahid led the development of the new UC Online course, "Introduction to Computer Science for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering," and is a strong advocate for online instruction

Stahovich and his research team of Jim Herold, Nicholas Rhodes, Levi Lindsey, and Matthew Ung presented two innovative tools for evaluating and understanding student performance. Both of the studies they described used LivescribeTM Smartpens to understand processes students undergo to resolve homework problems. In the first study, "A Data-Driven Approach to Categorizing the Spatial Organization of Homework Solutions," the researchers used the digital corpus of students' work created with their time-stamped pen strokes to develop a data-driven taxonomy of the cognitive processes students employed to solve the problems.

In the second study, "Using a Lexical and Temporal Analysis of a Student's Self-Explanations to Predict Understanding," the Stahovich-led team used a series of data-mining techniques to find patterns of language and timing that correlate to performance; specifically how the words they use in explaining how they arrived at their answers (i.e., the sequence they describe) correlates with performance.

Engaging underrepresented groups like women and Hispanic students in engineering was the theme of presentations by Amelito Enriquez, chair of the ASEE-PSW executive board and professor of engineering and mathematics at Cañada College, and Harmonie A. Hawley, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at California State University, Fullerton.

Amelito EnriquezEnriquez (photo, right) described an accelerated pathway program he created for community college students who are typically underprepared for the coursework required to transfer to a four-year college with an engineering major. In some cases, students face upwards of four to five years of coursework (mostly in mathematics) to transfer and because of this lose interest.

"When they are told they have to take all those courses, they think to themselves, 'I can't do this,'" Enriquez said.

Enriquez and his colleagues developed a Summer Math Jam, a two-week intensive math placement exam program that got students who had the same challenges in the same room tackling the same problems.

"Sharing a common experience was really helpful," according to Enriquez. "It was exciting to see these kids wanting to do six hours of math."

More than 1,000 students have gone through the program, resulting in a significant increase in the number of students enrolling on STEM-related transfer courses.

In her talk, Hawley pointed out how young women were encouraged by role models in engineering. She worked with Lucia Riderer, a professor of mathematics at Citrus College, a community college in Glendora, Calif., in establishing a program they called Encourage and Engage Women in Engineering (EEWIE) to guide and keep women on track in transferring to a four-year college with an engineering major.

"Woman are overlooked in community colleges as potential engineers," Hawley pointed out. "The most common reason they don't pursue it is lack of confidence, not poor performance. Women who earn A's in their classes leave the field, while men who earn C's stay in the program."

Hawley pointed out that women also say they don't pursue engineering because they don't know any female engineers. The EEWIE program addressed this by getting students engaged with their peers at other two- and four-year institutions, women faculty at four-year institutions, and women engineers in industry who offered guidance.

"Meeting women who survived the engineering curriculum gave the students the confidence they could be engineers," Riderer and Hawley wrote in their paper. Their program has also been successful in increasing the number of women who transfer to a four-year engineering degree program.

Additional presentations focused on programs with a global focus that engage engineering students from ASEE-PSW institutions with students and faculty at institutions in other countries, including China, France, Australia, Brazil, and several in the Middle East. Other presentations described outreach programs to young children to encourage STEM learning, including the Sandcastle Project at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Science Detectives at Arizona State University. 

Ray HaynesASEE Vice President Ray Haynes (photo, left) welcomed the conference attendees on behalf of the national organization and reported on its status. ASEE now has more than 12,000 members from more than 400 engineering and engineering technology colleges and affiliates, more than 50 corporations, and numerous government agencies and professional associations.

Haynes also invited the members to attend the 120th national conference and exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia June 23 - 26, 2013.

  

Awards given during the awards dinner Friday, April 19, were:

  • ASEE-PSW Outstanding Teaching Award:

    Avelino Eduardo Saez, University of Arizona, Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering
  • ASEE-PSW Outstanding Community College Educator Award:

    Ann-Marie Vollstedt, Truckee Meadows Community College
  • ASEE-PSW Best Paper:

    "Teaching Bioinformatics in Concert: an Interdisciplinary Collaborative Project-based Experience," Alex Dekhtyar, Anya L. Goodman, and Aldrin Montana from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
  • ASEE-PSW Outstanding Student of the year Award:

    Jose Garcia, a senior from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Section Outstanding Campus Representative:

    David Lanning, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott

Jane Close Conoley and Collie ConoleyUCR's Interim Chancellor Jane Close Conoley and her husband Professor Collie Conoley, director of the Carol Ackerman Center for Positive Psychology at UC Santa Barbara (photo, right), were the keynote speakers at the awards dinner.

The event was coordinated by Jun Wang, BCOE Director of Student Development and International Initiatives, and Eilene Montoya, executive assistant to Dean Abbaschian. Becki Jo Ray, administrative assistant in the Office of the Dean, served as assistant conference coordinator and mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate Shaahin Amini served as session chair coordinator.

"We were amazed by the interest from the ASEE community, and the strong support from ASEE-PSW executive board," Wang said. "Of course, we could not accomplish the conference without the outstanding staff and volunteers at the Bourns College of Engineering."

In addition to the Bourns College of Engineering, conference sponsors include Southern California Edison; Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; LAB Corporation; USC Viterbi School of Engineering; California State University, Fullerton, College of Engineering and Computer Science; California State University, Northridge; Harvey Mudd College; and URS.

ASEE logoFounded in 1893, the American Society for Engineering Education is a nonprofit organization of individuals and institutions committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology. In pursuit of academic excellence, ASEE develops policies and programs that enhance professional opportunities for engineering faculty members, and promotes activities that support increased student enrollments in engineering and engineering technology colleges and universities.

More information about the 2013 ASEE-PSW conference, including the conference proceedings, can be found on the conference website

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