Freshmen year programs in engineering have received recent and growing attention as a method to engage first year students in their profession and start them on a path to success. Service learning is a well-known pedagogical method that has been shown to improve retention, especially of underrepresented groups in engineering, and to promote deeper learning through reflection. This paper describes the implementation of a new long-term (full year) service learning project where 240 freshmen mechanical engineering students worked together in small teams to design and deploy an engineering outreach experience for a designated age-group of 4th-11th grade students. This educational experience is designed to expose the freshmen engineering students to a variety of concepts and skills necessary for successful negotiation of their engineering careers. The project encourages the freshmen to challenge their assumptions and conceptions of what an engineer is and does. Other knowledge and skills gained include understanding and using the engineering design process, effectively working on engineering teams, effectively communicating, planning and making decisions, all while solving an open-ended problem. The experience also asks the freshmen to consider diverse perspectives as they design for the targeted populations. The paper describes the project implementation and presents results from student reflections and from a survey. Lessons learned and recommendations for best practices are also presented.


Mechanical Engineering

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URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/meng_fac/116