Mechatronics and Academic Success: Towards Understanding the Impacts of Age, Major, and Technical Experience

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Haughery, John
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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This study built on previous research that found significant differences in the mean level of academic success (i.e., course grades) for students who participated in a mechatronic experience (i.e., integrating mechanical, electronic, and computer systems) vs. those who did not. This paper further examined this variation in course grades by conducting a two-way Analysis of Covariance to understand the impact academic major (i.e., technology major vs. non-technology major) and group assignment (i.e., control vs. treatment) had, while controlling for pre-study covariates of GPA, ACT, age, and technical experience. When adjusting for differences in ACT and GPA scores, we found significant main effects for group assignment (expected), but not for major (unexpected). Furthermore, no interaction effects where found between academic major and group assignment. When analyzing age and previous technical experience level (i.e., mechanical, electrical, and computer systems), we found age to be a significant predictor of course grades, while previous experience (in any area) was not. This would indicate that younger students performed better in the course, while, contrary to education theory, previous technical experience had no impact on course grades. This study used a quasi-experimental, nonequivalent group design with a convenience sample of n = 84 students in a first-year technology course. It looks to expand the empirical foundations supporting the impacts of mechatronic experiences on academic success.


This proceeding is published as Haughery, John R. "Mechatronics and Academic Success: Towards Understanding the Impacts of Age, Major, and Technical Experience." Paper ID #22460. 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition. Salt Lake City, UT. Posted with permission.

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Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2018