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A First-Year Course Based on Conceptual Design

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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

FPD 8: Teaching Design in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.47.1 - 24.47.14



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Paper Authors

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Jeffrey Scott Bates University of Utah

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A First-Year Course Based on Conceptual Design There is a large research university located in the western United States that includesmany majors and departments within its College of Engineering. A great deal of effort has beenplaced on helping students choose a major prior to enrolling at the institution, but many studentsstill enroll as undecided students. A course was designed to provide an engineering designexperience to undecided students and other students who are not academically prepared. Theobjectives of the course are to help students select a major in engineering, and to provide an earlydesign experience to help them create realistic expectations for engineering as a potentialprofession. The university does not have a first-year program, therefore this course is importantfor helping students make an informed decision about which major in engineering is right forthem. This first-year engineering course is designed to demonstrate the interdisciplinary natureof engineering. Students are introduced to the design process and the grand challenges asoutlined by the National Academy of Engineering. During the course of the semester, studentsbegin to develop problem and needs statements. Those statements begin to take shape as theybegin to identify marketing requirements, design specifications and begin the design process.Students are placed on interdisciplinary teams where they create innovative conceptual solutionsto some of the grand challenges. The conceptual design project in the course has helped studentsrealize where their interests lie. Furthermore, students begin to understand how their corecoursework relates to both the design process and their future engineering courses. In addition to conceptual design, students in the class are introduced to researchhappening within the College of Engineering through both tours of research facilities as well asfaculty presentations. Additionally, there are four course mentors for the course, all of which arein their junior and senior years. These mentors help students select a major and consult on theirdesign projects. The mentor relationship occurs at several points during the semester. Duringthe first few weeks they come into the class to answer questions about why they chose theirmajor, what they enjoy about their major and what they hope to do with their major. Duringsubsequent classes, they give a short presentation outlining the context of the grand challengesdiscussed in the course, and then answer questions in a discussion format. As the semesterprogresses, they are paired with teams as mentors and provide feedback during the final gradingof the design projects. Student feedback has been gathered after each semester, and changes have been made tobest meet student needs and interests. Feedback will be provided in both qualitative andquantitative formats in the full paper, and will demonstrate the effectiveness of the course inhelping students choose a major, become familiar with the design process and create a betterunderstanding of the engineering profession. This course has been taught for the past threeyears, and has been beneficial in helping many students choose a major, whether in engineeringor not. Therefore, this course has been effective for helping students gain exposure toengineering design and create realistic expectations for a major and a career in engineering.

Bates, J. S. (2014, June), A First-Year Course Based on Conceptual Design Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19939

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