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A First-year Design Project Software Tool to Emphasize Problem Solving with Computer Programming in the Design Process

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

First-year Programs Poster Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.47.1 - 25.47.13



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Paper Authors


Clifford A. Whitfield Ohio State University

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Clifford Whitfield graduated from the Ohio State University with B.Sc., M.Sc., and PhD. in aerospace engineering and is currently working as a Lecturer-B.E. and a Senior Research Associate for the Mechanical and Aerospace
Engineering Department and the Engineering Education Innovation Center’s First-year Engineering program at the Ohio State University.

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Dustin W. West Ohio State University

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Dustin Wayne West is a senior undergraduate student in the Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic Engineering Department at the Ohio State University and an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for the Engineering Education Innovation Center.

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Lowell Toms P.E. Ohio State University

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John A. Merrill Ohio State University

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A First-year Design Project Software Tool to Emphasize Problem Solving with Computer Programming in the Design ProcessThe [Institution Center] has offered, through its [Program], [Scholars Program], and [HonorsProgram] course sequences, several hands-on laboratory experiences for first year engineeringstudents that culminate in a quarter-long design-build project. The course sequences retain thetraditional material covered - engineering orientation, engineering graphics, and engineeringproblem solving with computer programming while offering several design-build project topics.One important objective for the first-year design projects, commonly called cornerstone projects,is to provide a team-based experience that includes all aspects of engineering design anddevelopment. This objective also includes successfully providing students with awareness of,and experience with, the iterative nature of design throughout the design cycle. The sequencesare one of the most innovative and successful of their kind, and have received national attention.In order to assess this objective, a recent study by [author,] conducted student team-basedsurveys on a weekly basis throughout the design for each cornerstone project offered in[Institution Center]. Given that the seven design and project management activities in theweekly team-based survey represents a reasonably full set of activities for most any designproject, data from the survey revealed that students are getting exposure to, and experience in. allof these important design activities.This paper addresses bridging the gap between the traditional material, specifically problemsolving with computer programming, and the Advanced Energy Vehicle (AEV) cornerstoneproject with the use of Matlab, based from lessons-learned from the student team-based surveyand classroom observations. Matlab has become the standard program for instruction with the[Program] and [Scholars Program] course sequences, and offers a significant amount ofversatility with its built-in toolboxes. These toolboxes are not introduced within the coursesequences curriculum, and in the instance of its graphical user interface, have the potential to notonly further emphasize programming within a structured environment but to be developed andused by the students within the design process. The use of the graphical user interface provideseducational value within the design project that includes; emphasizing the use of previousprogramming skills developed to solve design problems, and by having the students develop asoftware tool that enables efficiency within the design cycle, enhancing the design-process.The AEV cornerstone project was selected because it offers student development in engineeringintuition through the inductive/deductive processes, using a significant amount of experimentallygathered and analyzed data, ideal use for a powerful analytical project software tool.This paper discusses in detail the AEV project and its ability to respond and adapt to thechanging use of technology; project layout and deliverables; lessons learned from the studentteam-based survey and instructional staff observations within the classroom; motivations fordeveloping a design project software tool for the students to develop and use; and the integrationand teaching strategy for implementing the tool within the design process.Limited References:1. Whitfield, C.A., Freuler, R.J., Allam, Y., Riter, E.A., ”An Overview of Highly Successful First-year Engineering Cornerstone Design Projects" International Conference on Engineering Education, Belfast, Ireland, August 2011.2. Whitfield, C.A., Schlosser, P., Merrill, J.A., Riter, E., Agarwal, K., "Advanced Energy Vehicle Design-Build Project for First-Year Engineering Student" American Society for Engineering Education, Vancouver, Canada, AC2011-761.3. Dominick P.G., Demel, J.T., Lawbaugh, W.M., Freuler, R.J., Kinzel, G. L., “Tools and Tactics of Design” Wiley, John & Sons, Inc., November 2000.

Whitfield, C. A., & West, D. W., & Toms, L., & Merrill, J. A. (2012, June), A First-year Design Project Software Tool to Emphasize Problem Solving with Computer Programming in the Design Process Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20807

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