June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Design in Engineering Education
12.62.1 - 12.62.10
A Methodology for Assigning Project Teams
Why do we use team based projects when we teach? In part it is because we want students to apply new knowledge beyond structured homework problems. The benefit of working in a team is that each team member can contribute towards a common goal and achieve more than one could individually. And, after graduation, our students will work as part of a team on many projects.
How are student teams usually made? When the students are allowed to group themselves the results are clusters of friends, interspersed with human filler. When grouped by instructor the teams can be designed to distribute strengths and weaknesses across all teams evenly to ensure even chances of success. Methods to categorize strengths and weaknesses can be as simple as grades1, or as complex as personality indicators. When personality indicators are used the teams are designed to have complimentary personalities.
What makes a team successful or fail? A team that functions well will approach a task and pro- duce strong results without ‘issues’. Some teams will be pulled off track by conflicts with an indi- vidual and produce sub-optimal solutions. Teams that are largely non-functional will simply fail because of widespread personality conflicts. Essentially, conflicts impact the team performance. Issues that tend to lead to major conflicts on student teams include but are not limited to a lack of motivation, lack of talent, working too much, and abrasive personalities.
The topics of personality and conflicts must be dealt with separately when forming teams, with conflicts being given the higher priority. This paper describes a method for forming project teams that can be copied or modified for use in other courses. In simple terms the method can be described as “Group students on teams with similar challenges, and everybody will benefit”.
The engineering program at Grand Valley State University has a strong industrial focus. In sup- port of our mission, projects have always been used extensively throughout the curriculum. The project process begins in the freshman year using formalized project management experiences for the students, and management procedures for the faculty. The typical sequence for a project is given below2. 1. Team formation 2. Needs identification 3. Conceptual designs 4. A detailed design proposal 5. Approval 6. Build, test, and debug
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