Improving Student Readiness for Inquiry-Based Learning: An Engineering Case Study


  • Tom A. Eppes University of Hartford
  • Ivana Milanovic University of Hartford
  • Kamau Wright University of Hartford



student research, inquiry-based learning, multidisciplinary modeling


During the past decade, the authors have sought to advance student research in a predominantly teaching institution. The two primary challenges were: academic - how to introduce and promote inquiry-based learning (IBL) given the constraints, and business - how to obtain and sustain funding in the area of industry-sponsored research. The authors developed a successful multidisciplinary modeling course that integrates four teaching and learning strategies and where key learning outcomes strengthen student readiness to engage in research. The course culminates with research performed as part of an IBL strategy that is relevant and supported by mentoring. The benefits include development of intellectual and practical skills that underlie a central activity of engineering design. The course structure, evidence of student work, and evolution over time to meet challenges are presented and discussed. Most importantly, the potential of this strategy to be implemented across other topical areas is addressed. Student participation in research improves learning of engineering and scientific concepts, increases interaction with faculty and industry sponsors, and provides opportunities for work in emerging technology areas. Benefits accrue both to students who pursue a research career and to those who enter applied fields by strengthening their ability to propose innovative solutions.

Author Biographies

Tom A. Eppes, University of Hartford

Professor of electrical & computer engineering at the University of Hartford. His area of expertise is multiphysics modeling and photonics. Dr. Eppes is a contributing author for more than 75 journal articles, conference papers, technical reports, and software releases. He is a member of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

Ivana Milanovic, University of Hartford

Professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Hartford. Her area of expertise is thermo-fluids with research interests in vortical flows, computational fluid dynamics, multiphysics modeling, and collaborative learning strategies. Dr. Milanovic is a contributing author for more than 80 journal articles, NASA reports, conference papers, and software releases.

Kamau Wright, University of Hartford

Assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Hartford. He specializes in thermo-fluids and plasma engineering. His technical research interests include applications of high voltage plasma discharges to liquids and wastewaters; fouling prevention and mitigation for heat exchangers; oxidation of organic matter in water; and inactivation of bacteria using high voltage plasmas.




How to Cite

Eppes, T. A., Milanovic, I., & Wright, K. (2020). Improving Student Readiness for Inquiry-Based Learning: An Engineering Case Study. International Journal of Online and Biomedical Engineering (iJOE), 16(01), pp. 4–17.