Beyond Summer Reading: Enabling Covert Student Learning Through a Cross-Campus Connecting Theme

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Pavlis Honors College; Department of Engineering Fundamentals; Department of Computer Science; Department of Social Sciences


In the spring of 2022, a formerly vibrant summer reading program had become moribund due to retirements and staff changes; roughly 1600 first year students were about to miss out on a longstanding and successful tradition. In response, a small group of faculty sought a way to link first-year courses between disciplines in order to boost student engagement. This group latched upon a fortuitous circumstance: the 101st anniversary of Karel Capek's play R. U.R., which gave the world the term 'robot.' Thus was born Robot 101, an integrative experience connecting instructional content between courses and with a wide range of academic and artistic events outside the classroom, all centered around the multifaceted theme of 'robot.' This paper details how a common theme can inform and enliven first-semester courses in engineering, composition, and computer science, as well as engage the greater university community. Our primary objective in establishing these overt connections between courses and other activities was to give students the opportunity to form their own covert connections, thereby deepening their appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature of big ideas in engineering, technology, and society. The program also provided opportunities for more advanced students to participate and make their own interdisciplinary connections. This work provides initial data and reflections on the effect of this program on student engagement and connectedness in first semester courses. We include recommendations for a scalable and sustainable program that continues thematic integration on an ongoing basis.

Publication Title

Proceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE