Skip to Main Content
Since 2005, the first-year engineering program at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, has been significantly restructured to include more hands-on learning. A major grant (2004-2009) under the department level reform (DLR) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) facilitated this restructuring. A number of hands-on learning modules were developed and implemented within a required first-semester undergraduate course. One of the modules introduced mechatronics. The goal of this module is to introduce first-year engineering students to a portion of the mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer engineering disciplines within a collaborative setting. Interestingly, while the largest portion of engineering students in the United States are enrolled in electrical and mechanical engineering programs, there is a disparity between the percentage of male engineering students and female engineering students within those disciplines relative to the overall distribution of all students among the various engineering disciplines. By introducing all engineering students to mechatronics before students declare their specific discipline, the college hopes to attract more females to programs that suffer from a greater gender disparity than is already found within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This paper discusses the details of the implementation of the mechatronics initiative and gives student feedback that includes overall perception of the initiative and perception by gender.