LEVEL: Freshman
4 Credit Hours (Quarter)

COURSE GOAL:
As the title of the course implies, this is normally the first engineering course that mechanical engineering students take at the University of South
Alabama (USA). My goals are for the students to find out about the diverse disciplines of the mechanical engineering profession and to prepare them for success in studying mechanical engineering. A guiding principle in developing the course is "design-across-the-curriculum" -- service-learning provides the context for students to learn and practice the design process as they carry out their design projects.

There are five learning objectives for the students: (1) gain an understanding of the Mechanical Engineering profession as well as confidence in studying engineering; (2) demonstrate teamwork skills; (3) demonstrate the engineering design process; (4) practice communications skills (written, oral, and computer); and (5) become aware of community-civic responsibility of an engineer.

COURSE DESCRIPTION:
This course has many of the features of successful, model "Introduction to
Engineering" courses described in recent ASEE publications, except that service-learning provides the context for students at USA to learn and do design. The students learn the design process through a number of case studies led by the instructor, with some of the cases used in Year Two taken from Year One design projects of ME 125. The students are then assigned teacher clients for their design projects, and they complete the service-learning projects when they turn in a report to the instructor and an instructional manual to their teacher clients, and make an oral presentation.

I take an integrative approach to delivering the course materials. For example, team building activities are integrated with exercises about the
ME profession: students work in a team to interview a faculty member of the
ME Department and to submit a list of questions to ask a panel of USA-ME graduates in a forthcoming class period to learn more about the ME profession. Students also work as a team to solve an ethical dilemma that engineering students might encounter while in college. In instruction on the engineering design process I use a case-study approach. I also introduce Principles of Conservation of Mass, Energy, and Momentum, and I teach students to use a spreadsheet program (Microsoft Excel) to perform computer modeling in finding design solutions.

Learning Objective #1 (students gaining an understanding of the engineering profession and confidence in studying engineering) is assessed by a combination of pre- and post-surveys and homework assignment. Course materials for this learning objective is Ray Landis' text, Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Successful Career [1].

Learning Objective #2 (students demonstrate teamwork skills) is assessed by a combination of pre- and post-surveys, homework assignments, and a design notebook comprising of the minutes of meetings regarding the group's work and progress in the design project. Course materials for teamwork are taken from a NSF report, Teams in Engineering Education, by Bellamy, et al [2].

Learning Objective #3 (students demonstrate the engineering design process) is assessed by the following: final design report and oral presentation, three progress reports, and homework assignments. Course materials for the engineering design process are written by the instructor.

Learning Objective #4 (students practice communications skills) is assessed by five writing assignments that are graded both on content (70%) and mechanics of writing (30%), two oral reports (progress report plus final project presentation), and three computer spreadsheet assignments. Oral presentation for the final design project is assessed by another ME faculty other than the instructor based on the following category: Overall Design (30%); Clarity of Presentation (20%); Use of Visual Aid (20%); Team Work (20%); Handling Q&A's (10%). Students found deficient in the mechanics of writing are given an opportunity to resubmit their essays and are advised to visit the USA Writing Lab for one-on-one tutoring.

Learning Objective #5 (students become aware of community-civic responsibility of an engineering) is assessed by a writing assignment and pre- and post-survey. Course materials for this objective is Ray Landis's book, Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career, Chapter 4 [1]. The survey questions to assess Learning Objectives #1and 5 are written by Dr. R. Burke Johnson and Dr. E. Jean Newman, Behavior Studies and Education Technology Department, College of Education, University of South Alabama [3]. Survey questions to assess Learning Objective #2 is taken from the work of Anwar [4].

The quality of the tools and modules to support hands-on learning of mathematics and science in middle-schools that are produced by the engineering students is assessed by surveying the middle-school teacher participants. In addition to usefulness of these tools and modules, the teacher participants are also surveyed on their impression of project implementation. Teacher participants are pre- and post-tested at a one-day teacher enhancement workshop on issues related to math and science education for the 21st Century, and writing learning objectives and lesson plans for math and science instruction. The workshop is conducted by Dr. Brenda Litchfield, College of Education, University of South Alabama. Questions for the survey of teacher participants are written by Dr. Litchfield [5].

SERVICE-LEARNING PROJECT:

a) Community Partners:
The community partners are middle-school teachers from the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS). In Year One (1995-1996), 20 teachers from the school system's SECME (Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering) program were recruited and selected. The targeted teacher team consisted of a mathematics or science teacher and a language arts or social studies teacher from the same school. In Year Two (1996-1997), team make-up comprised of a mathematics teacher and a science teacher from the same school. Also in Year Two, the target pool was expanded to include all MCPSS middle-school teachers, and 24 middle-school teachers were selected. The teachers were provided with a small stipend from a grant from the Corporation for National Service for their involvement.

b) Identifying Community Need:
The community need addressed by our service-learning project was identified at a forum sponsored by the University of South Alabama Chapter of Sigma Xi in April, 1994 to discuss ways in which USA faculty members can contribute to improving mathematics and science instruction in public schools in Mobile County. A panel of teachers, principals, and administers said resources to support active, hands-on learning are needed. This need for more resources to support hands-on learning of mathematics and sciences in public schools for middle-school students became the focus of service-learning design projects in "Introduction to Mechanical Engineering."

c) Solutions:
Service-Learning provides the context for first-year ME students to learn and practice the design process. As a result, 18 packages of instructional materials have been produced by these engineering students in their service-learning projects. Some examples of the service-learning design projects to address the teacher participants' needs for more resources to support active, hands-on learning of mathematics and sciences in middle-schools are:

(i) Pencil rockets and a simple sextant to measure the height of rocket's flight. The activities demonstrate a practical application of "ratio" – in this case, slope. Middle-school students will have an opportunity to learn the technique of using a look-up table in solving a problem.
(ii) A flush-toilet to demonstrate the engineering concepts of lever and gravity-feedm and mathematical concepts of volume. Middle-school students will also practice collecting and graphing data.
(iii) Tools and activities to investigate the math and engineering behind the game of bowling. Middle-school students will have a chance to collect and graph data; apply the "ratio" concept; and practice spatial visualization.
(iv) Tools and activities to investigate surface-area-to-volume ratio and its manifestation in the natural world. Through the activities, middle-school students will have an opportunity to practice lab skills in measuring and collecting data; descriptive writing; and to apply the concept of "surface-area-to-volume" ratio.
(v) Activities based on building the Pyramid of Giza. Middle-school students will have an opportunity to practice skills in measuring and collecting data; apply the concept of the ratio "slope"; practice the skills of constructing a math/engineering model; and estimating.
(vi) Tools and activities to investigate and demonstrate wind energy, and the impacts of wind on the energy consumption of air travel.

d) Roles:

(i) Community Partners:
An orientation was held at the beginning of the academic quarter in which a description of the service-learning project, the project timeline, and expectations of the instructor were presented to the teacher participants. These expectations include meeting with the ME student design teams to convey their needs and to provide them with feedback; implement and evaluate the hands-on tools designed for them; and participate in a debriefing at the conclusion of the project. The orientation is followed by a workshop led by a faculty member from the College of Education who is an expert in instructional design. Topics covered in the workshop include writing learning objectives and developing lesson plans for math and science instruction, and issues related to mathematics and science education for the 21st Century. At the workshop, the teacher participants work with the instruction specialist to write learning objectives, and they meet with the instructor for "Introduction to Mechanical Engineering" to discuss their needs for the hands-on tools to meet their learning objectives that will be designed and produced by the engineering students in the service-learning design projects.

ii) Student Participants:
On the third week of the academic quarter, each student design team receives a memorandum from the instructor identifying the teacher clients assigned to them and a general statement of their needs. The student design teams then meet with their clients for an initial interview to gather background information, and they visit the schools to gain an impression of the environment in which their designs will be used. Students turn in three individual progress reports on design project problem statement, solution generation, and solution selection. Each design team is required to keep a note-book containing a meeting log of each meeting among themselves or with the teacher clients.

Engineering students receive instruction on the design process through two case studies. In Year One, the cases are based on the instructor's work with Mobile County middle-school math and science teachers. In Year Two, the cases are drawn from Year One student projects. During the last two weeks of the course, students are provided with "free" periods to work on completing and implementing the design; producing the tools; and writing the final report. Some of these periods begin with a 10-minute presentation from representatives from student chapter of ASME, Career Services, and ME faculty members, and the instructor addressing students' questions and concerns. The engineering-student design teams are required to demonstrate the tools/activities they have designed to their clients for evaluation purposes. To complete the design project, each engineering-student design team present to the teacher clients a three-ring notebook consisting of instructions on introductory, developmental, and culminating activities based on the tool(s) they designed for the teacher clients. The engineering-student design teams are also required to submit a report to the instructor consisting of the above sections, plus a section on evaluation for continuous improvement. Project oral presentation takes the place of the final exam. To make the service-learning design projects more "real-world" like, each engineering-student design team is given a budget of $50.00

e. Reflection -
I use a section of a chapter on student development from Ray Landis's text as the focus for reflection. Landis suggests that students act as ambassadors of their university by visiting their alma mater as an example of community service that they can engage in to enrich their academic experience. Students write short paragraphs in response to the following questions:

1. Can and how a student ambassadorship role help them improve themselves?
2. Can and how a student ambassadorship role hurt development of a student?
3. What are some of the things middle-school students would have benefited to hear from a engineering student ambassador, drawing upon the engineering students' prior experience as middle-school students.?

I provide the students with opportunities to serve as ambassadors. For example, in the Winter Quarter, I assign a homework connected to the National Engineer's Week: some of the students visited schools as the activities they will carry out to celebrate the National Engineer's Week. Students write a follow-up essay reflecting on that experience. For the future, I will try to make a tie-in with the National Volunteers Week for the Spring Quarter class.
I used another section of Landis's text for discussion on ethics and professionalism. Students work in team to address an ethical situation often faced by engineering students.

f. Grading:
The service-learning design project constitutes 50 percent of the grade
(oral presentation - 25%; final project report - 25%). Homework, including three progress reports for the design project, three computer spreadsheet projects, writing assignments on engineering education for the 21st Century, professionalism and ethics, and on reflection, constitutes 40% of the grade. Finally, the team design notebook, containing minutes of all meetings devoted to groups projects, constitutes the remaining 10%.

Final project presentation is evaluated by another ME faculty member using the following criteria: Overall Design - 30%; Clarity of Presentation - 20%; Use of Visual Aid - 20%; Team Involvement - 20%; and Handing Questions and Answers - 10%.

The final project report and oral presentation, a computer modeling project, and assignments associated with team-building are graded as a group. Students then evaluate each other's contribution, and an individual score based on the team grade and peer evaluation is assigned.

g. Results:
Overall, the learning objectives for the course have been met, based on student course grades and qualitative measurements. The quantitative results of pre- and post-surveys are mixed -- I think this is primarily due to students rating themselves "high" in the pre-survey. The quantative data must also be interpreted with caution because of small sample population (a total of 62 students from Winter and Spring Quarters, 1996 and Winter Quarter, 1997; quantitative data for Spring, 1997 is not yet available) and because there is no control group.

Students enrolled in 1995-96 and 1996-97 (a total of 83 students) received the following grades for their design project written report: 51.8% (43 students) received a grade of A; 33.8% (28 students) received a grade of B; 6.0% (5 students) received a grade of C; 2.4% (2 students) received a grade of D; and 6% (5 students) received a grade of F. Overall, 85.6% of the students received a grade of B or higher for the written project report. The report grade is assigned by the instructor. For design project oral presentation: 50.6% (42 students) received a grade of A; 26.5% (22 students) received a grade of B; 10.8% (9 students) received a grade of C; 7.3% (6 students) received a grade of D; and 4.8% (4 students) received a grade of F. Overall, 77.1% of the students received a grade of B or higher in oral presentation. The oral presentation grade is assigned by another ME faculty member other than the instructor. For the course grade, 43.4% (36 students) received a grade of A; 39.8% (33 students) received a grade of B; 9.6% (8 students) received a grade of C; 3.6% (3 students) received a grade of D; and 3.6% (3 students) received a grade of F. Therefore, 83% of the students received a course grade of B or higher. This result demonstrates that Learning Objective #3 has been achieved with the service-learning design project. The results of pre- and post-survey regarding Learning Objectives #1, 2, and 5 are as follows:

Student efficacy towards engineering -- attitudes increased all three quarters; the increase was statistically significant for Winter, 1997 but not statistically significant for Winter and Spring, 1996. Their self-confidence in studying engineering also increased all three quarters; the increase was statistically significant for Winter and Spring, 1996 but not statistically significant for Winter, 1997. Their confidence in talking with engineering faculty members and engineers in the field increased in all three quarters; the increase was statistically significant in Winter and Spring, 1996 but not statistically significant for Winter, 1997.

Teamwork -- pre- and post-surveys decreased in Winter and Spring, 1996 and increased in Winter, 1997, although all the measured changes were not statistically significant. When asked to list three skills obtained from the service-learning design project, teaming was mentioned by students approximately twice as often as any of 11 other skills. Under teaming, students listed working with others, sharing ideas, total group involvement, and ability to communicate with team members.

Community-civic responsibility -- attitudes decreased in Winter, 1996 but increased in Spring 1996 and Winter, 1997; all changes were statistically significant. It should be noted that in Winter, 1996, one student who has a strong personality objected to the community-oriented design projects (the instructor thinks for ideological reasons) and he organized a student complaint to the department chair. No problem of this sort occurred during Spring 1996 or Winter 1997. In the open-ended responses of post-survey, students listed benefiting society as a definition of engineering, along with problem solving and design; benefiting society was either the most or second most important according to student responses. With the exception of Winter, 1996 because of one student organizing a complaint, the majority of the student comments regarding the course were very positive. Some examples of their written comments are: "I had a great time! The hardest work you will ever love"; "Excellent class that prepares ME students for the real world"; "I learned a lot from this class, like organization, communication, and how to get on your feet"; "Most enjoyable class at USA"; "Keep trying hard to do something productive for the community"; "I really was impressed with the complexity of this freshman level course. Students are introduced to the design process, required to write reports, and communication is emphasized. Without those items, engineering will not take place"; "I enjoy this class and also able to learn a lot of things"; and "I really learnt a lot from the class. I think my lecturer motivated me a lot." Several offered suggestions, for example, "Change the project to high school students so we could delve deeper into more complex math concepts" and "Make the course a 'writing' course."

h. Lessons learned:
There are four lessons that I have learned -

(i) In Year One, ME students were asked to write learning objectives and lesson plans as well as designing and producing the tools to support the learning objectives. As a result, I scheduled one week of instruction delivered by a faculty from the College of Education on principles of learning, developmental levels of middle-school students, and elements of good instructional design, to help our engineering students in the task of writing learning objectives. Because the tasks are more of a "word" problem in nature than a "number" problem, the engineering students had a lot of difficulty. This difficulty is exacerbated by poor coordination among some of the teacher teams (teams consisting of a math/science teacher partnering with a language arts/social studies teacher) in Year One -- see (ii) below.
Consequently, in Year Two, the teacher participants were given the task of writing the learning objectives and lesson plans, and the engineering students were given the tasks of designing the tools to support the learning objectives. We held a one-day workshop led by a faculty member of College of Education to help the teacher participants on writing learning objectives and lesson plan for math and science instruction. We feel that this workshop is beneficial to the teacher participants since they can benefit from the materials presented in the workshop in the long run.

(ii) In Year One, the community partners consisted of teams in which a math/science teacher was paired with a language arts/social studies teacher, because I wanted our engineering students to consider STS (science, technology and society) and take a multi-discipline approach in their design. Unfortunately, there was poor coordination among some of the teacher participants, and some teacher teams gave very poorly worded and sometimes conflicting goals to the engineering students. This might be due to the fact that in Alabama, many middle-school math and science teachers are actually certified in elementary education, and that non-science/math teachers have low math and science literacy. In Year Two, we picked teacher teams comprising of a math teacher and a science teacher, and coordination between the teacher participants and engineering students greatly improved.

(iii) Formation of engineering-student design teams - Initially, I assigned the design teams based on the engineering students' class and work schedules. Based on feedback from the students, in which they suggested
students be given the opportunity of forming their own teams, I took another approach in Year Two. I asked for student volunteers to be team leaders, and the team leaders picked their members based on the resumes and class/work schedules submitted.

(iv) Scheduling Difficulties - there was considerable difficulty for the engineering students to schedule meetings with their teacher clients because a majority of our engineering students work and they are married and have families. Scheduled meetings were sometimes broken off by the teachers because of school functions such as field trips. I learned that this is a difficult task to solve, and this is a common problem encountered by other participants involved in implementing service-learning projects regardless of the discipline.

REFERENCE

1. Landis, R.B. (1995). Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding
Career. Discovery Press.

2. Bellamy, L., D.L. Evans, D.E. Linder, B.W. McNeil, and G. Raupp (1994).
Teams in Engineering Education, National Science Foundation Report, Grant
Number USE9156176.

3. For more information, contact Dr. R. Burke Johnson at 334-460-6673 or
bjohnson@usamail.usouthal.edu and Dr. E. Jean Newman at 334-380-2871 or
.

4. Anwar, S. (1995). "Development Of A Collaborative Problem Solving
Instructional Model And Its Implementation In Engineering Technology Classes," Proceedings of the. 1995 Annual Conf. ASEE, Vol. 2, p. 2316-2329.

5. For more information, contact Dr. Brenda
bcl@usamail.usouthal.edu.