of the Pacific
Northwest Section
American Society for
Engineering Education


Fall 2008


2008 PNW-ASEE Section Meeting
November 6-8
University of Washington

Attendees List


Thinking Design, Doing Design … and Becoming Designers
Cindy Atman, Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education
University of Washington

This talk highlighted changing perceptions about the type of information needed for design activities among a longitudinal cohort of undergraduates at four different types of institutions. The language used by students to describe design activity becomes more specific and more closely aligned with engineering professionals as they progress from freshman to senior year. Freshman characterized design in simple terms such as seeking information (women) and building (men). Seniors and engineers in the workforce characterized design in terms such as goal setting, identifying constraints, prototyping, testing, and iterating. Significant gender differences were noted in the conceptualization of design. While men and women cited a similar number of detailed design factors associated with a ‘midwest floods problem’, women paid great attention to contextual factors that included a larger frame of reference (natural and social factors) as well as physical impact (river bank and beyond). More information about CAEE research methods and their implications for classroom practice can be found in a series of research briefs available on the web at

Look for details about our joint Zone Meeting in subsequent PNW newsletters.  March 25-27, 2010 in Reno, Nevada.

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Community College Engineering Transfer Students at a Research University
Frank Ashby, Seattle Community Colleges

Three research questions about transfer students versus direct entry students at the University of Washington were examined in Dr. Ashby’s PhD thesis: (1) Is there a difference in relative performance in upper division coursework? (2) Is there a difference in lower division versus upper division coursework? (3) Is there a difference in persistence? Numerical data on approximately 3000 engineering students who matriculated between 1999 and 2004 were presented. Approximately 30% of these transferred from community colleges. At graduation, transfer student GPAs across multiple engineering disciplines were only slightly below those of direct entry students. There was essentially no difference in grades received in lower division coursework versus upper division coursework for both populations. Both transfer and direct entry engineering students who enrolled in junior level coursework persisted in securing an engineering degree with a probability of 93%.

CWU Support for EDCC Materials Technology ATE
Craig Johnson, Central Washington University

The National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program ( utilizes educators from two-year colleges in leadership roles to develop and implement ideas for improving the skills of technicians and the educators who teach them. This presentation explored how concept inventories and curricular materials available through the Materials Education Resource Center at Edmonds Community College ( along with the National Educator Workshop ( can be used to enrich engineering education as well as K-12 outreach in STEM.

Classroom Presenter: Digital Ink and Interaction in the Classroom
Ruth Anderson and Natalie Linnel, University of Washington

Classroom Presenter is a Tablet PC-based interaction system that supports the sharing of digital ink on slides between instructors and students. When used as a presentation tool, Classroom Presenter allows the integration of digital ink and electronic slides, making it possible to combine the advantages of whiteboard style and slide based presentation. The ability to link the instructor and student devices, and to send information back and forth provides a mechanism for introducing active learning into the classroom and creates additional feedback channels. The software was the recipient of the 2008 Premiere Award and is downloadable free from

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Investigating the Validity of Students’ Self-Assessment of Their Ability in Statics
Jeffrey Newcomer, Western Washington University

The relationship between what students know and what they think they know about problem solving in statics by comparing their ability to write free body diagrams, compose equilibrium equations, and solving equilibrium equations with student self-assessments of their work in these three areas. Weak correlation was observed with students equally as likely to overestimate or underestimate the validity of their work. Other studies have reported no to moderate correlation between engineering problem solving and student self-assessments. An important conclusion of this work is that while self-assessment data may be helpful in understanding student’s affect about what they are learning, it should not be used as outcomes assessment data. This paper was identified as having the most promising potential for competition in the 2010 ASEE Section Paper competition.

Benefits of Comprehensive Engineering Assignment Standards
Mark Batho, University of Washington

Assignment standards have been used in a hydraulics course as a tool for reinforcing problem solving methods, documenting key assumptions, and providing a more complete framework for validating as well as reusing calculations. Expectations management in engineering classes was cited as critical to successful use of assignment standards. These should be appropriately highlighted at the start of the course, demonstrated by instructor example, and reinforced with each homework submission. Rather than using bonus points or deduction points, the presenter has found it most effective to request resubmission if student work is not adequately detailed or formatted. This approach not only cultivates a local documentation culture, but it reinforces the professional value of getting it right the first time.

Seattle: A Platform for Educational Cloud computing
Justin Cappos, University of Washington

Networking simulations can be run authentically using world-wide networking resources by using a special application available at By joining this network your machine becomes both a ping server for conducting network studies initiated by you, and a ping client for others conducting their own network research. The system is secure and utilizes an extremely small portion of local computing resources.

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Freshmen Engineering Retention Courses
Larry Wear, University of Washington—Tacoma

Joining freshmen with seniors on capstone design projects was presented as a tool for engaging student learning by both parties. Plans at UW—Tacoma are to provide an orientation to product development, PSPICE, and Lego Mindstorms in a stand-alone class following by two terms of interaction with seniors at UW—Seattle. The arrangement is hypothesized to apply positive internship practices early on in student’s academic career as well as provide opportunities for upperclassmen to practice technical mentoring and project management with teams of diverse abilities.

Web-Based Assessment of Design Team Performance
Steven Beyerlein, University of Idaho

The Transferable Integrated Design Engineering Education (TIDEE) consortium has created an integrated set of assessment tools for use in capstone engineering design courses and other team-based project environments (Handout). The primary purpose of this assessment system is to impact student learning and professional growth in a design team environment. A secondary purpose is to collect ABET data. Elements of the NRC assessment triangle (model, observation, and interpretation) were mapped to a team member citizenship assessment to illustrate good practice in assessment design and implementation. Recently a web interface has been developed to facilitate student data entry, faculty review, and results reporting. This has dramatically reduced the effort required for data capture and the cycle time for providing student/peer/faculty feedback.


Present: Sean St Clair, Jim Borgford-Parnell, Niki Schulz, Steve Beyerlein, Craig Johnson, Jeff Newcomer, Larry Wear, Marilyn Dyrud, Brian Self (Zone Rep)

2010 Meeting: PNW-ASEE will meet in conjunction with Intermountain and California sections for a Zone Meeting. This will be March 25-27, 2010 in Reno, Nevada. The target size is at least 100 people. A participant program is planned that consists of reviewed papers, work in progress presentations, posters, and parallel workshops.

Outreach to Others in Region: Search for ASEE members by section and division using

Fall 2009 Meeting Idea: Encourage WCERTE to schedule a meeting in southwest
Washington and invite faculty from Oregon Community Colleges. Lobby for joint fall 2009 meeting with WCERTE and Oregon CC’s (maybe in Vancouver, WA).

Selection of PNW-ASEE Awards: Telecon during first week of December.

Spring PNW-ASEE Meeting: Telecon during mid March.

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Connecting Research on Engineering Teaching and Student Learning
Cindy Atman and Ken Yasuhara, University of Washington


  • Highlight three research findings from large-scale Academic Pathways Study
  • Identify types of teaching decisions related to these findings
  • Produce insights how to use this research in scholarly teaching.

Research Findings:

  1. Engineering students become increasingly disengaged in both engineering and non-engineering courses over their undergraduate years.
  2. Male engineering students have significantly higher self-confidence than female students in math, science, and open-ended problem solving.
  3. Among first-year engineering students, females tend to situate engineering design problems in a broader context than males do.

Engineering Educator Decisions:
Planning decisions (course/activity design) and interactive decisions (facilitation) were cataloged from one hour interviews with 31 faculty in 9 departments. This resulted in over 1000 pages of transcripts that have been coded to study the relationship between teaching thinking and teacher action. Educator decisions identified by attendees included:

  • determining how much to change an existing course in the next instructional cycle
  • allocating time for assessment (feedback for learning) and evaluation (grading)
  • responding to unexpected problems in class
  • balancing attention to learning content and to learning process
  • creating rubrics for measuring student performance

Small Group Discussion:
Teams of 3-4 selected one of the research findings and brainstormed teaching decisions related to this finding. One group discussed teaching decisions related to increasing academic disengagement (first finding). These included:

  • formulating and implementing assignments that add value and are not busywork
  • “marketing” effective academic choices, promoting professional decision-making
  • deciding how much credit to give for attendance and participation
  • determining who and when to advise/mentor
  • coordinating with faculty teaching other courses to avoid bottlenecks
  • modeling engagement in instructional activity (walking the talk)
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Another group discussed teaching decisions related to differences in confidence by gender (second finding). These included:

  • organizing students into lab and project groups
  • reframing feedback differently for males and females
  • contemplating biases in self-assessments and peer evaluation
  • considering contextual and personal factors when reviewing self-assessments
  • advising prospective students

A final group discussed teaching decisions related to differences in consideration given to broad context by gender (third finding).

  • allocating classtime to examining societal and global issues
  • selecting leaders for class projects
  • designing in-class and out-of-class reflective activities
  • balancing breadth and depth in course content
  • allowing students to struggle until they get the ‘right’ answer

Upcoming dates and deadlines:

2008-09 PNW Section Contacts

Pacific Northwest Engineering Education is the official communications organ of the Pacific Northwest Section, American Society for Engineering Education. Reader submissions are welcomed! Please send feedback and ideas to the Newsletter Editor.