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A Freshman Design Experience Using Rapid Prototyping

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

State of the Art in Freshman Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.40.1 - 9.40.8



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Paper Authors

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Daniel Walsh

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

Session 1153

A Freshman Design Experience Using RPT

Robert Crockett, Martin Koch, Dan Walsh California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Introduction California Polytechnic State University has an earned reputation as a proponent of the hands-on, laboratory-based, learn-by-doing approach to education. We have also won a reputation as a college whose students are steeped in open-ended problems and underpinned by an understanding of design and the process of design. Design exposures for General Engineering students start in the second quarter of the freshman year. This early exposure is a retention tool, as it helps students begin to understand a facet of their professional life, and provides a glimpse at the world of the professional engineer. It provides a simple answer to the basic question “What will I do as an engineer?” Furthermore, the exposure provides connection to industry. The challenges students address in the class are components of problems provided by industry. This connection provides an answer to the question “What sort of companies will I work for?” In addition the exposure provides a segue to a continuum of future design experiences, answering the question “What other classes can I take?” Finally, the design exposure also panders to a basic human need. Design is not only the central and defining activity for the engineering profession, it is clearly the most human of all activities. The behavior sets us apart from all other species and has often been used to define what is human as opposed to simple animal conduct.

There is often a reluctance to treat design during the freshman year. Arguments are made that students lack the basic mathematical, scientific and analytical skills to make design exposures significant. This is a dangerous and destructive belief. A universal characteristic of engineering application is that tools and phenomena are used long before they are completely understood. (Thermodynamics owes more to the steam engine that the steam engine owes to thermodynamics!) One insidious result of delaying design exposure is that students mimic their instructors and carry forward a serious intellectual flaw. They begin to classify and compartmentalize knowledge, and neither integrate information nor make connections between disciplines. This is particularly critical in the freshman year, where students are exposed to mathematics, chemistry, physics and computer science – taught in isolation. These subjects should under gird their design skills and form connective threads in the tapestry of their professional awareness. Instead, they build silos in their consciousness, become unwilling to approach comprehensive problems and are incapable of holistic solutions. In the worst case this can lead to student frustration culminating in the loss of bright and well-motivated students to other educational disciplines.

Faced with these pitfalls and challenges, the design experience described in this paper was established specifically to satisfy the need for a meaningful design course in the freshman year. This course eliminates the student confusion engendered by a conflict between what they are told engineering should be - stressing intellectual integration and curricular synthesis - and what they Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Walsh, D. (2004, June), A Freshman Design Experience Using Rapid Prototyping Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13491

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