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A Four Year Progression Of Open Ended Projects In An Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Curriculum

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

New Tools in Teaching and Learning Biomedical Engineering Concepts

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.40.1 - 12.40.12



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Paper Authors

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Daniel Cavanagh Bucknell University

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Joe Tranquillo

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Donna Ebenstein

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Four Year Progression of Open-Ended Projects in an Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Curriculum


One of the important instructional goals of our Biomedical Engineering Program is to provide students with the opportunity to develop strong, independent project skills in both the classroom and the laboratory. To accomplish this goal, the Program has developed a series of open-ended projects and laboratories that begins in the first-year introductory engineering course and extends through the senior design course. As students progress through the curriculum, the level of emphasis placed on project management and technical results is modified in accordance with anticipated student abilities.

In the first two years of the curriculum, a great deal of emphasis is placed on students’ abilities to manage various aspects of projects including identifying project motivations, planning experiments, constructing experimental setups and communicating results. At the same time, students are not penalized for projects that fail to produce data as long as the team followed the appropriate design processes outlined in class. For example, in the sophomore Fundamentals of Biomedical Engineering course, students spend the semester identifying, planning, constructing and carrying out experiments modeling a physiologically relevant fluid flow phenomenon. While the students learn how to construct basic flow systems in class, they are completely responsible for the identification, design and implementation of their individual physiological model. This project provides an environment in which the students are very invested in the experimental design process yet prevents them from being overwhelmed by having to manage an entire project.

As the students enter into the final two years of the curriculum, they are presented with more open-ended projects in which they are required to perform with less guidance and in which a stronger emphasis is placed on the acquisition of valuable results. These projects include: 1) a medical device benchmarking project; 2) a fluid flow feedback control project; 3) a finite element modeling project; 4) a CAD/rapid prototyping project; 5) a cell culture project; and 5) senior design projects mentored by external experts in the biomedical field.

Overall, the four-year series of approximately eight open-ended projects provides students with extensive experience in recognizing and tackling less-defined technical projects. Since students are presented with projects in the early years that are more process driven, they have time to gain experience with project planning and execution before they enter into more results driven projects in the later years.

Cavanagh, D., & Tranquillo, J., & Ebenstein, D. (2007, June), A Four Year Progression Of Open Ended Projects In An Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2106

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