Engineering Course to Introduce Non-Calculus Ready First Year Students to Engineering Concepts and Critical Thinking Skills

Project No.
PI Name
Lizzie Santiago
West Virginia University

Abstract 1

Engineering Course to Introduce Non-Calculus Ready First Year Students to Engineering Concepts and Critical Thinking Skills

Presentation Type
Lizzie Santiago, West Virginia University Melissa Morris, West Virginia University Robin Hensel, West Virginia University


First year non-calculus ready students represents a group of college students at high risk of leaving engineering. These students join an academic institution not only with weak math skills, but they also are less exposed to engineering upon entrance, in comparison with calculus ready students. This lack of engagement in engineering leads to confusion, frustration, and a loss of interest in engineering.


This project will support the development and implementation of a course to teach non-calculus ready first year engineering students engineering concepts while reinforcing critical thinking skills. The long term goal of this project is to decrease attrition and to increase critical thinking skills among engineering students that are not calculus ready.


In this course, critical thinking skills are emphasized using the CDIO (Conceive-Design-Implement-Operate) educational framework. Critical thinking is incorporated into lectures, projects, activities, and assignments. Surveys, reflective essays, and several measurements of critical thinking skills are used in the study.


This project is currently in the first semester of implementation. We expect that the projects and activities developed and the discussion of engineering concepts in a student centered environment will produce an increase in interest in engineering and will improve the retention of non-calculus ready students in engineering.

Broader Impacts

Increasing the number of non-calculus ready students graduating with an engineering degree is essential to address two concerns raised by the NSF: broadening participation in STEM fields and increasing the quantity and quality of STEM baccalaureate degree recipients. Findings from this project will be disseminated and published in scientific journals and conference proceedings to reach audiences in engineering education, as well as institutions with programs in engineering.

Unexpected Challenges

I believe that the most challenging portion of the project was to incorporate math concepts in a critical thinking course. The teamメs decision was to develop projects, hands on activities, and problem solving problems that blend engineering and math.