Keywords

Undergraduate research model

Abstract

A model is described for incorporating undergraduate research into an engineering curriculum through a vertically integrated design sequence. The sequence is composed of five courses: one each during the spring semester of the freshmen through junior years and two courses during the senior year. Each course offers skills that provide scaffolding for students to contribute to a team performing an engineering design project or research project. Teams are composed of freshmen through seniors (i.e., vertically integrated) and led by seniors. A strength of the model for undergraduate research is that upper level students can mentor lower level students, which allows for students to build on the accomplishments of previous years and create continuity in the research program. A current project on thermosiphon research will be used to illustrate how the model works. The thermosiphon project is in its seventh continuous year, has averaged 12 students per year, and has students working on both research and applications aspects of the project. Students on the teams are members for approximately two years on average, which gives them time to learn the details of the project and then mentor new members in critical areas of the project such as data acquisition and testing procedures. After an initial period of development in the collective knowledge of the research group lasting two years, team members have now written proposals successfully receiving funding from internal university groups and presented their results at regional and national undergraduate research conferences over the past four years.

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A Model for Incorporating Undergraduate Research into an Engineering Curriculum

A model is described for incorporating undergraduate research into an engineering curriculum through a vertically integrated design sequence. The sequence is composed of five courses: one each during the spring semester of the freshmen through junior years and two courses during the senior year. Each course offers skills that provide scaffolding for students to contribute to a team performing an engineering design project or research project. Teams are composed of freshmen through seniors (i.e., vertically integrated) and led by seniors. A strength of the model for undergraduate research is that upper level students can mentor lower level students, which allows for students to build on the accomplishments of previous years and create continuity in the research program. A current project on thermosiphon research will be used to illustrate how the model works. The thermosiphon project is in its seventh continuous year, has averaged 12 students per year, and has students working on both research and applications aspects of the project. Students on the teams are members for approximately two years on average, which gives them time to learn the details of the project and then mentor new members in critical areas of the project such as data acquisition and testing procedures. After an initial period of development in the collective knowledge of the research group lasting two years, team members have now written proposals successfully receiving funding from internal university groups and presented their results at regional and national undergraduate research conferences over the past four years.