Attracting students to engineering is a challenge. In addition, ABET requires that engineering graduates be able to work on multi-disciplinary teams and apply mathematics and science when solving engineering problems. One manner of integrating teamwork and engineering contexts in a first-year foundation engineering course is through the use of Model-Eliciting Activities (MEAs) — realistic, client-driven problems based on the models and modeling theoretical framework. A Model-Eliciting Activity (MEA) is a real-world client-driven problem. The solution of an MEA requires the use of one or more mathematical or engineering concepts that are unspecified by the problem — students must make new sense of their existing knowledge and understandings to formulate a generalizable mathematical model that can be used by the client to solve the given and similar problems. An MEA creates an environment in which skills beyond mathematical abilities are valued because the focus is not on the use of prescribed equations and algorithms but on the use of a broader spectrum of skills required for effective engineering problem-solving. Carefully constructed MEAs can begin to prepare students to communicate and work effectively in teams; to adopt and adapt conceptual tools; to construct, describe, and explain complex systems; and to cope with complex systems. MEAs provide a learning environment that is tailored to a more diverse population than typical engineering course experiences as they allow students with different backgrounds and values to emerge as talented, and that adapting these types of activities to engineering courses has the potential to go beyond “filling the gaps” to “opening doors” to women and underrepresented populations in engineering. Further, MEAs provide evidence of student development in regards to ABET standards. Through NSF-funded grants, multiple MEAs have been developed and implemented with a MSE-flavored nanotechnology theme. This paper will focus on the content, implementation, and student results of one of these MEAs.

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