Making Engineering Education Fun
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Maintaining student interest is more than an academic exercise. Institutions or departments that fail to challenge and actively involve their students in the learning process risk losing them to competing programs where the curricula are more dynamic and relevant. Within the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Oregon State University, we continually seek innovative ways to promote student retention while maintaining academic excellence. One recent effort was to restructure a first-year nuclear engineering/health physics course. Using nuclear techniques, students were required to solve a fictitious murder. In the process they learned about teamwork, nuclear forensics methods, radiation protection, and basic radiation interactions. The class members were brought into the mystery playing the part of "graduate students" who helped their police-detective uncle solve the case. To assist in their investigation the students subpoenaed expert "witnesses" to educate them on nuclear principles. The students, through homework, explained their actions, methods, and reasoning to a non-technical participant (their "uncle"). By building on knowledge gained through interviews and homework, the students were able to solve the mystery. This mode of teaching requires extensive hands-on faculty participation. However, the potential long-term benefit is increased comprehension of course content as well as greater student interest and retention.
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Higley, K. A., & Marianno, C. M.
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