Empowering Students with Engineering Literacy and Systematic Problem Solving through Interactive and Cost-Effecive Games

“What does this problem ask” is an oft-repeated phrase of engineering students given a problem to solve. Although engineering faculty always strive to effectively teach problem solving, it seems that a deeper and underlying cause of the inefficacy is students’ reading comprehension. The serious problems in students’ comprehension ability pervade content areas like engineering. Indeed, the fact that the United States lags behind the world in technological innovation may reflect students’ limitations in reading as much as their knowledge of engineering and scientific contents and procedures. Research has shown that providing students with explicit reading strategy instructions improves their comprehension and learning.

With the advancement in digital technology, games have come a long way to be much more than visualization. They are interactions within immersive digital worlds that promote learning through authentic and engaging play. Since many of today’s students have grown up with games of ever increasing sophistication, infusing out-of-school literacy into a classroom setting becomes extremely important. In light of our students’ interests and the need for engineering literacy, this project investigates a non-intrusive approach that infuses metacognitive reading strategies into fully packed Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Engineering Science curricula. In particular, the pilot study is conducted within the context of two ECE knowledge domains: digital design and circuit analysis. There will be five freshman and sophomore courses involved, including three ECE core courses at Rowan, Digital I, Network I, and Network II* and two ES foundation courses at Camden County College (CCC), Engineering Circuit Analysis and Digital. With minimal modifications to the existing course materials, theme-based treasure hunting games, featuring literacy strategies and ECE fundamentals in real engineering problem-solving, are designed to replace the traditional laboratory setting of these courses. The game format provides students with a learning structure and an incentive to develop their skills at their own pace in a non-judgmental but competitive and often fun environment. The interaction together with visual and audible information serves as parallel channels to the learner, increasing the efficiency of learning.

For more details about the project deliverables, please visit the project website