Assessing Impact of Engineering Projects in Community Service on Engineering Freshmen Enrolled in Pre-Calculus
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American Society for Engineering Education, 2016. This work-in-progress describes a novel approach to support freshman engineering students entering college with low math competencies in pre-calculus. Institutions across the nation are making significant efforts to develop K-12 programs and summer camps to recruit more ethnic minorities into engineering to better support the growing needs for diversity in industry workforce. However, while a diverse freshman-engineering cohort is essential, it is even more important that schools provide students with adequate support to be successful in their freshman year and thus increase their chances to be retained and graduate with an engineering degree. In particular, first generation and low-income students may enter college without proper academic preparation with fundamentals in mathematics, which may lead to low academic performance during their first year in engineering and impact their retention in engineering. To address this issue, engineering schools are investing resources in developing and offering remediation programs to ensure underrepresented minority students acquire the necessary foundational skills to be successful in their first calculus, physics and engineering courses in college. In this large public institution, all incoming engineering freshmen are required to take a math placement exam, which determines if they are calculus ready for their first mathematics course. This work-in-progress describes interventions, such as co-enrollment of students in a pre-calculus and engineering projects in community service courses, to assist students who scored very low on this exam in building a mathematical foundation with an engineering framework. At the end of fall semester, students had improved pre-calculus skills (13.8 points) and 86.4% were retained in engineering. The findings of this study will provide further contributions to research on the retention of students who enter engineering requiring remediation in mathematics.