Active/Collaborative Learning Student Teams Integrating Technology Effectively Women and Minorities Assessment and Evaluation EC2000 Emerging Technology Foundation Coalition Curricula Concept Inventories
First-year Curriculum

In 1988, engineering curricula were viewed as three-year degree programs with first-year filters that focused on prerequisites in calculus, physics and chemistry. Today, first-year students across the Foundation Coalition, as well as other engineering education coalitions and institutions beyond the coalitions, learn engineering within a connected intellectual and social context. They work on real-life projects: designing better cup holders for commercial trucks, building robots that mimic insects, building tools that help physically challenged individuals, and working along with nursing students in patient care. Working and learning in teams helps them confront the difficulties as well as learn about the advantages of participating on teams. They learn why engineers need to learn physics, economics, mathematics, ethics, chemistry, and social implications of technology and they make better connections between these subjects and the practice of engineering. Taking two or more of the first-year courses with the same students builds community and social support that are vital as they take a challenging curriculum. These changes have improved retention within engineering (16% higher at Texas A&M University and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and at least 25% higher at the University of Wisconsin Madison for students who elect to participate in first-year engineering courses). Further, students are making more rapid progress toward graduation. Finally, schools within the Foundation Coalition have worked with Louisiana Technological University, Michigan Technological University, South Dakota School of Mines, and University of Pittsburgh as they restructured their first year programs along the lines of the Foundation Coalition.

Each Foundation Coalition partner institution has developed and implemented an innovative first-year engineering curriculum based on the seven pedagogical theories of the Foundation Coalition (FC).

Each FC partner has a distinctive name for its first-year curriculum: TIDE at the University of Alabama, IMPULSE at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and so forth. Information about each campus curriculum can be found by exploring the links below.

Texas A & M University Texas A&M University
Freshman curriculum for engineering students
Holistic Model for Engineering
Courses are now offered together in "clusters" for groups of 100.
Student Performance
Students in the new curriculum perform better on standardized tests.
First-year Engineering Courses
Other Features
  • Reasoning
  • Retention
  • Workability
University of Alabama  University of Alabama
Freshman curriculum for engineering students.
TIDE Program:  3 Entry Points
How is engineering different?
Arizona State University Arizona State University
Freshman curriculum for engineering students.
Three First-year Programs
  • Freshman Integrated Program in Engineering (FIPE, or EnGAGE Option 1)
  • EnGAGE Option 2
  • Ad hoc program
Student Performance
Conclusions:  FIPE
Course Materials
University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth  University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Freshman curriculum for engineering students.
University of Wisconsin  University of Wisconsin
LINKS coordinates several programs aimed at improving the learning environment for first-year students.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology  Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Freshman curriculum for engineering students

Related First-year Engineering Curricula

  • University of Tennessee: engage The engage curriculum is a program in the College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee for all first-year engineering students. It is built around teaming students on project-oriented, hands-on activities. Topics include:
    • graphics
    • computer programming
    • statics
    • dynamics
    These topics are integrated into two six-hour courses, which are focused around several "design, build and test" projects. The projects provide realistic, mind-engaging problems, introducing students to the engineering design process and allowing them, on a reduced scale, to experience the same decision-making process as practicing engineers.
  • Louisiana Technological University Integrated Two-year Program: Louisiana Tech has implemented an integrated curriculum for the first two years of study in engineering. The main sequences in this integrated curriculum are a six-quarter mathematics course sequence and a parallel six-quarter course sequence in engineering. Each quarter of the first two years, a prospective engineering student will enroll in one mathematics class and one engineering class, which are co-requisites for each other.
  • Michigan Technological University, First-Year Program: In the fall of 2000, Michigan Tech implemented a common first-year program for all engineering students. The curriculum in the new first-year program naturally includes required courses in math and science. In addition, students enroll in two required engineering courses in each of their first two semesters at Michigan Tech. Hallmarks of this program are "cohort" scheduling of math/science/engineering courses and an emphasis on collaborative learning in the engineering courses. The intent is that the first year Math, Science and Engineering (MSE) courses will be integrated wherever feasible. Examples of the type of integration that are possible include: manipulating and graphing data from Chemistry lab using computer tools in the engineering course, applying derivatives and integrals learned in math to "engineering" problems, learning an introduction to statics and dynamics in the engineering course as they are learning about forces and motion in Physics.
  • South Dakota Schools of Mines and Technology, FC 2000: The Freshman Curriculum 2000 (FC 2000) consists of two two-credit courses each with a laboratory component. In the FC2000 curriculum, topics in general engineering were integrated with English and general sciences (i.e. Chemistry and Physics). In addition, relevant history associated with notable people in engineering and science were integrated as well.
  • The Drexel Engineering Curriculum (tDEC): The first-year curriculum at Drexel University includes an introduction to the art of engineering; mathematical, physical, and chemical and biological foundations of engineering, and a first-year humanities sequence.
  • Multidisciplinary Engineering Foundation Spiral, University of New Haven: The Multidisciplinary Engineering Foundation Spiral is a four semester sequence of engineering courses, matched closely with the development of students mathematical sophistication and analytical capabilities and integrated with coursework in the sciences.

    Collura, M. A., Aliane, B., Daniels, S., Nocito-Gobel, J. (2004). Development of a Multidisciplinary Engineering Foundation Spiral. Proceedings, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, accessed 9 May 2005

    Abstract: To operate effectively in todays workforce engineers need to have a muti-disciplinary perspective along with substantial disciplinary depth. This broad perspective cannot be achieved by merely taking 2 or 3 engineering courses outside of the major, but rather will require a radical change in the way we educate engineers. The faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of New Haven have developed a new approach: the Multidisciplinary Engineering Foundation Spiral. This curricular model provides the needed mix of breadth and depth, along with the desired professional skills, by providing carefully crafted, well-coordinated curricular experiences in the first two years.

    The Multidisciplinary Engineering Foundation Spiral is a four semester sequence of engineering courses, matched closely with the development of students mathematical sophistication and analytical capabilities and integrated with coursework in the sciences. Students develop a conceptual understanding of engineering basics in a series of courses which stress practical applications of these principles. Topics in these courses include electrical circuits, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, material balances, properties of materials, structural mechanics and thermodynamics. Unlike the traditional approach, however, each of the foundation courses includes a mix of these topics, presented in a variety of disciplinary contexts. A solid background is developed by touching key concepts at several points along the spiral in different courses, adding depth and sophistication at each pass. Each foundation course also stresses the development of several essential skills, such as problem-solving, oral and written communication, the design process, teamwork, project management, computer analysis methods, laboratory investigation, data analysis and model development. Students go on to build substantial depth in some of the foundation areas, while other topics may not be further developed, depending on their chosen discipline. Thus the foundation courses serve both as the basis for depth in disciplinary study and as part of the broad multidisciplinary background.

    This paper will discuss the design and pedagogical philosophy of the Multidisciplinary Engineering Foundation Spiral and describe several of the novel courses in the program.


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