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A Frankenstein-inspired Engineering Design Project

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


James Canino Trine University

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Jamie Canino is currently an associate professor at Trine University where he focuses on undergraduate education research. He teaches in the thermal-fluids and aerospace engineering fields and can be reached at

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Kendall B. Teichert Trine University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Teichert received his B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University. His Masters research studied behavior of microelectromechanical sensors/actuators. He worked for a small engineering firm in Salt Lake City, Utah before returning to school. Dr. Teichert received his PhD from University of Michigan, where he focused on modeling of cyclic loading for batteries in a particular microrobotic application.
Dr. Teichert is an assistant professor in Trine University's, Wade department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, where he teaches dynamics, mechanics of machinery, as well as introductory first-year courses.

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All over the world people are reading Frankenstein in celebration of its 200th anniversary. There is no doubt that the ideas explored in Frankenstein are still timely and important to today’s engineers. However, Frankenstein is rarely discussed in technical classes. This paper discusses a design project for first year Mechanical Engineering students that asked students to select and explore a theme from Frankenstein as a guide for the design of an autonomous robot. In essence, the students were required to develop a target customer that would benefit from the theme they selected. The use of the novel to generate concepts for the robots was supported by using a form of double column notes. This processes required the students to select several quotes from the book that they felt could be used as inspiration for concept generation. Students sketched the robot ideas and explained the connection between the quote from the book and the concept.

A variety of different experiences will be reported. Unfortunately, many students developed very superficial or surface level connections, rather than truly exploring the themes of the book. For example, several students created ideas that centered on snow removal. However, other students were able to delve deeper, presenting ideas such as social rejection. In one case, students designed a robot that, when yelled at, would flee.

Additionally, a more quantitative approach to gauge the student’s perception of this experience will be presented. After completion of the project, a survey was used to evaluate the student experience. Twenty-seven of 61 students responded to the survey. The survey indicated that only 11% of the students read the entire book whereas 22% said they read 20% or less of the book. Interestingly, 15% of students also reported enjoying reading the book. Therefore, it would seem plausible that enjoyment of the book is critical to the level of engagement from the students beyond the minimum requirements of the assignments. Perhaps most encouraging, 67% of students reported that there are important concepts in Frankenstein for today’s engineers and 63% said it was moderately to highly important to incorporate humanities into science and engineering. The survey also included a free response section. Students commented that using Frankenstein provided focus for concept generation; however, it also limited their potential scope. A common critical response revolved around that fact that people did not read the book and felt that the time involved in reading the book was too great. One comment provided the valuable feedback that students may want to focus more on recent topics like AI, GMO’s or cloning.

Additional results from the survey and project will be given in the full paper. These findings suggest an acknowledgment of the importance of the humanities in STEM from the students, and provide valuable insight for future implementation.

Canino, J., & Teichert, K. B. (2019, June), A Frankenstein-inspired Engineering Design Project Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31958

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