First-year interest groups and 1st semester BME design class exposure to improve engineering student outcomes
First year Biomedical Engineering (BME) students at The University of Texas at Austin have the option of joining a First-year Interest Group (FIG). FIGs can increase student interest and retention in the major by allowing groups of 15-20 students to attend a weekly seminar and their first engineering classes together.  BME 303L Introduction to BME Engineering Design is a required course for first year BME students; students who join a FIG facilitated by the BME advising office enroll in BME 303L together during their first semester (fall) on campus. Approximately 80% of fall semester BME 303L enrollment is FIG students, while the other 20% are not part of a BME FIG. The same course taught by the same instructor is also offered during the following spring semester, and spring enrollment is exclusively made up of first year students who did not participate in a fall FIG. While FIGs have been shown to increase retention and we have observed a positive impact on attitudes toward engineering, we have not yet been able to correlate these successes to engineering student outcomes as defined by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). In order to better understand if the FIG success is correlated to engineering student outcomes, the authors surveyed all first year BME students at the end of the fall 2017 semester to measure their own perception of teamwork, communication skills, lifelong learning, and ability to use engineering tools. This paper presents initial results of the survey comparing engineering student outcome perceptions from students who just completed a FIG and BME 303L in the fall semester, and students who did not participate in FIG and are enrolled in BME 303L in the spring semester. These data will be used to optimize advising and curriculum for first year students and improve engineering outcomes for all students. Future surveys are planned for sophomore and junior years as well.