At Case Western Reserve, the Case School of Engineering
is fundamentally changing how first-year students are taught by replacing
traditional lecture-based courses with a new, signature, two-semester course
sequence focused on active learning.
The program’s goals: to transform the engineering student
experience and introduce engineering skills, the design process, professional
development and communication skills.
“This AAU STEM grant will be used to expand curricular development
and faculty engagement surrounding these new courses and to develop pilot
courses,” said Kurt Rhoads, assistant professor in the Division of Engineering
Leadership and Professional Practice and the Department of Civil Engineering,
who is teaching the first pilot course. “The new program will be implemented as
a required core sequence for all engineering students in fall 2020.”
The first-semester course will consist of hands-on projects
combined with data analysis and programming using MATLAB. Each project will be
designed with a co-instructor with expertise from a different engineering
field. Through this course, students will learn fundamental engineering skills
as they build and test their own project, such as a piezoelectric crystal or a
In the second-semester course, students will learn engineering
design in the context of a semester-long project driven by community needs.
Students will develop fabrication and design skills using Case Western
Reserve’s innovation center, the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears
think[box], while also focusing on communication and professional skills.
“Ultimately,” said Donald Feke, vice provost for Undergraduate
Education and Academic and Faculty Affairs and a professor of chemical
engineering, “we expect this initiative will improve the experience of
engineering undergraduates at Case Western Reserve, thereby improving student
engagement and retention in STEM—particularly for women and underrepresented
Among the other AAU members receiving STEM grants: Brandeis
University, Emory University, Georgia
Institute of Technology and Washington University in St. Louis.
The network is part of the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, a major project begun in 2011 to encourage STEM departments at AAU universities to use teaching practices proven to be effective in engaging students in STEM education and in helping students learn.