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  1. This article details the multi-year process of adding a “design thread” to our department’s electrical and computer engineering curricula. We use the conception of a “thread” to mean a sequence of courses that extend unbroken across each year of the undergraduate curriculum. The design thread includes a project-based introduction to the discipline course in the first year, a course in the second year focusing on measurement and fabrication, a course in the third year to frame technical problems in societal challenges, and culminates with our two-semester, client-driven fourth-year capstone design sequence. The impetus to create a design thread arose frommore »preparation for an ABET visit where we identified a need for more “systems thinking” within the curriculum, particularly system decomposition and modularity; difficulty in having students make engineering evaluations of systems based on data; and students’ difficulty transferring skills in testing, measurement, and evaluation from in-class lab scenarios to more independent work on projects. We also noted that when working in teams, students operated more collectively than collaboratively. In other words, rather than using task division and specialization to carry out larger projects, students addressed all problems collectively as a group. This paper discusses the process through which faculty developed a shared conception of design to enable coherent changes to courses in the four year sequence and the political and practical compromises needed to create the design thread. To develop a shared conception of design faculty explored several frameworks that emphasized multiple aspects of design. Course changes based on elements of these frameworks included introducing design representations such as block diagrams to promote systems thinking in the first year and consistently utilizing representations throughout the remainder of the four year sequence. Emphasizing modularity through representations also enabled introducing aspects of collaborative teamwork. While students are introduced broadly to elements of the design framework in their first year, later years emphasize particular aspects. The second year course focuses on skills in fabrication and performance measurement while the third year course emphasizes problem context and users, in an iterative design process. The client-based senior capstone experience integrates all seven aspects of our framework. On the political and organizational side implementing the design thread required major content changes in the department’s introductory course, and freeing up six credit-hour equivalents, one and a half courses, in the curriculum. The paper discusses how the ABET process enabled these discussions to occur, other curricular changes needed to enable the design thread to be implemented, and methods which enabled the two degree programs to align faculty motivation, distribute the workload, and understand the impact the curricular changes had on student learning.« less
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 9, 2022
  3. Abstract: Honors education values diversity, not simply to enrich our classrooms but for equity and social justice. At Columbus State University, students of color were underrepresented in honors education, and we sought to determine if institutional structures hindered them from being able to access educational programming that was commensurate with their ability. We used focus group interviews with students of color who were academically eligible to enroll in honors education yet never participated. We combined focus group interviews with an analysis of our recruiting practices. Using a theoretical framework based on intersectionality and possible selves theory, we found that ourmore »participants valued diverse learning environments, balance, and co-curricular engagement that supported their professional, hoped-for selves. However, they perceived honors students as stressed, studious, and lacking leisure time, and they perceived honors education as disconnected from their future professional selves. Since their perceptions, which were informed by participation in advanced programs in middle school and high school, as well as our recruiting practices, were in conflict with their educational aims, our participants were unwilling to invest in honors education. While not generalizable, the results provide unique insights that may implicate institutional practices as barriers to participation because they fail to address the concerns of high-achieving students of color.« less
  4. ABSTRACT A search of the first Data Release of the VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) Survey discovered the exceptionally red transient VVV-WIT-01 (H − Ks = 5.2). It peaked before March 2010, then faded by ∼9.5 mag over the following 2 yr. The 1.6–22 μm spectral energy distribution in March 2010 was well fit by a highly obscured blackbody with T ∼ 1000 K and $A_{K_s} \sim 6.6$ mag. The source is projected against the Infrared Dark Cloud (IRDC) SDC G331.062−0.294. The chance projection probability is small for any single event (p ≈ 0.01–0.02), which suggests a physical association, e.g. a collisionmore »between low mass protostars. However, blackbody emission at T ∼ 1000 K is common in classical novae (especially CO novae) at the infrared peak in the light curve due to condensation of dust ∼30–60 d after the explosion. Radio follow-up with the Australia Telescope Compact Array detected a fading continuum source with properties consistent with a classical nova but probably inconsistent with colliding protostars. Considering all VVV transients that could have been projected against a catalogued IRDC raises the probability of a chance association to p = 0.13–0.24. After weighing several options, it appears likely that VVV-WIT-01 was a classical nova event located behind an IRDC.« less
  5. National surveys of design courses find many similarities between the way capstone courses are structured and implemented, although more programs focus on the design process rather than creating a product. What is not as well understood are the methods and techniques used to inform students of interrelationship between product and process. This paper discusses the use of multiple formal design representations as a means to focus learning on the interrelation between design processes and products. The ability to utilize multiple representations has been demonstrated to be effective in improving student learning in math education, a discipline that can be highlymore »process-oriented. Similarly representational fluency impacts engineering modeling. In the context of teaching design the term representation here refers to a written or graphical expression of some aspect of the design process and/or product. Ideally the set of representations would form a minimal and complete orthonormal basis set; that is the ensemble of representations captures the design in its entirety and the representations are not redundant. Since the design work of many engineers is a set of plans or diagrams (forms of representation) the complete set of representations has the potential to capture both the process of design and serve as a product of design work. Over a four year period a set of representations was developed and trialed in a year-long senior capstone course in electrical and computer engineering at a small, private liberal arts institution. Using an iterative, action research approach that included student input a set of representations was developed by modifying or eliminating ineffective representations and introducing new formats based on analysis of the students’ response and success. To minimize redundancy and work towards completeness (i.e. a lean, 360° view of the process and product) representations were organized using a “design canvas” modeled after the Business Model Canvas. The Design Canvas classifies representations by actionable questions on two axes—system development and design choices— which in turn are organized hierarchically by scale. Results of the project and examples of representations for the current iteration of the Design Canvas are presented along with the Design Canvas development process.« less
  6. High-impact academic experiences, particularly research and internship experiences, have positive impacts for engineering students on engineering task self-efficacy (ETSE), a measure of students’ perception of their ability to perform technical engineering tasks. However, under- represented racial/ethnic minority students (URM) and women in engineering are found to have relatively lower self-perceptions across several academic and professional self-efficacy measures. Previous studies examined the impact of research and internship experiences on ETSE for students categorized by gender and URM status separately. The current study explores the impact of these experiences on ETSE for the intersection between these two identity categories. This study foundmore »that both non-URM and URM women that participated in research and internship experiences had lower ETSE scores than non-URM and URM men, respectively. However, URM women that participated in both research and internship experiences had a statistically similar ETSE score to non-URM men that had not participated in either. This study uses multiple linear regression to measure the association between engineering internships and student’s reported ETSE (effects of participating in research were not found to be significant across identities). Preliminary findings indicate that differences in ETSE between internship participants and non-participants are highest for URM women when compared to their counterparts. Consistent with the literature, this research finds that there is a greater positive effect in ETSE scores, as a result of participation in both research and internship experiences, for URM women than their majority counterparts. These preliminary results provide a foundation for further studies to causally investigate the link between academic experiences and self-efficacy levels for students who are underrepresented in engineering programs. Future implications of this work include the creation of targeted intervention efforts to increase support for all URM students’ access and participation in research and internship experiences. Additionally, this work seeks to challenge the bias towards monolithic interpretations of women and URM engineering students as separate categories and encourage intersectional perspectives when analyzing data to produce more inclusive results. Key Concepts: intersectionality, self-efficacy, engineering task self-efficacy, learning outcomes, academic pathways, inclusion, engineering experiences, research, internships« less