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A Design Approach in an Introduction to Engineering Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.44.1 - 24.44.12



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Paper Authors


Jianghong (Esther) Tian Eastern Mennonite University

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Esther Tian is an assistant professor of Engineering in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Eastern Mennonite University. She received her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Virginia, where she did an interdisciplinary research on Modeling and Analysis of Neuronal Circuits for Locomotion with Sensory Feedback. Her research interests include neuronal control mechanism of animal locomotion and robotics, as well as engineering design education.

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A design approach in an Introduction to Engineering courseJust as each person reads Shakespeare differently, every professor teaches Introduction toEngineering differently. I taught my introduction course as a design course because I believe thatengineering design is the essence of engineering.We are a small liberal art university, where only a few engineering courses offered. Unlike inengineering schools in large research universities typically a series of two semesters or moreengineering design courses are provided in their programs, we have none currently in ourcurriculum. Due to its core values in engineering education and research as well as in industry, Ihave decided to incorporate engineering design as the main theme into the Introduction toEngineering course. Inspired by the ideas in Calder’s Uncoverage: Towards a SignaturePedagogy for the History Survey, I emphasized thinking, doing, and evaluating as professionalswould in this course. I introduced two collaborative design projects – design and build a solarpowered cell phone charger and a persistence of vision wand. In addition to designing andbuilding functional devices as end products, students have to develop plans of work, keeprecords in their lab notebooks, consider alternative designs, write final reports including marketanalysis, and present their work in visual aided presentations. In the process, students learned touse design software – Autodesk Inventor to design the cases housing the circuit boards of thesolar powered chargers and the wands encasing LED circuits. The cases were then printed out ona three-dimensional printer. They also learned to design, construct and test electronic circuits.Moreover, students learned to program a microcontroller – Arduino board to control the LEDdisplays. Testing and evaluating their designs as well as teamwork self-assessment and peerevaluations were carried out through the process. Finally, the textbook used in this course isEngineering Design: a Project-based Introduction by Dym and Little. Students followed a five-stage prescriptive model (problem definition, conceptual design, preliminary design, detaileddesign, and design communication) in their design process. Design communication was stressedin this course. We embrace the philosophy that oral and written communication is the key forbeing a good engineer.Overall, through an emphasis on engineering design in an Introduction to Engineering course, Iwas able to introduce my students to the design process of an engineering project, to facilitatetheir development of creative and innovation skills, to utilize the state-of-the-art technologiessuch as 3D printing and Arduino microcontroller platform, to allow them to get a taste ofdifferent fields of engineering such as mechanical, electrical, computer, environmental, etc.

Tian, J. E. (2014, June), A Design Approach in an Introduction to Engineering Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19936

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