Asee peer logo

A Pilot Program in Open-Ended Problem Solving and Project Management

Download Paper |

Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2018

Conference Session

Project-Based Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

14

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/27494

Download Count

26

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Paul M. Yanik Western Carolina University

visit author page

Dr. Paul Yanik is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology at Western Carolina University. His research interests include human-robot interactions, assistive devices, pattern recognition, machine learning, and engineering education.

visit author page

biography

Chip W. Ferguson Western Carolina University

visit author page

Chip Ferguson is the Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Technology and Professor of Engineering and Technology at Western Carolina University.

visit author page

biography

Sudhir Kaul Western Carolina University

visit author page

Dr. Kaul is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Western Carolina University. His research interests include Fracture Diagnostics, Structural Dynamics and Control, and Motorcycle Dynamics.

visit author page

biography

Yanjun Yan Western Carolina University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-5152-6614

visit author page

Yanjun Yan received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Harbin Institute of Technology (China), and the M.S. degree in Applied Statistics and the Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University. She is an assistant professor in engineering and technology at Western Carolina University. Her research interests are statistical signal processing, diagnostics, and particle swarm optimization.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

Accreditation criteria for engineering programs have come to place emphasis on what is being learned versus what is being taught. Engineering programs must now show that their graduates are achieving a specific set of learning outcomes. Historically, programs have focused on outcomes involving technical competence. Project Based Learning (PBL) has come to the fore as a means to promote these outcomes through active student participation in multidisciplinary, open-ended, group projects requiring self-direction, and teamwork. Industry studies have indicated that changes in engineering education are needed to address perceived deficiencies in other skills related to work readiness including communication and interpersonal skills, awareness of global issues (social, environmental, economic), leadership, and skills related to project management. This research is motivated by the need for PBL practices in engineering programs to provide early exposure to work readiness skills in order to promote students’ effectiveness in dealing with complex open-ended technical problems as may be encountered in senior capstone projects or in professional practice. Use of Rube Goldberg machines as a vehicle for teaching basic engineering design skills has been employed in a number of settings. These projects require students to creatively consider a variety of unconventional approaches to simple problems. In so doing, student teams are enabled to communicate and to advance their ideas in a nonthreatening forum where brainstorming is highly valued and where prior technical expertise affords no specific advantage. As such, projects based on Rube Goldberg machines present an effective way for freshmen and sophomore students, who may lack extensive technical skills, to acquire greater proficiency in the areas where industry has observed the greatest deficiencies. This research presents results from a pilot study in project management using the Rube Goldberg paradigm. The goal of the study was to create an effective teaching mechanism for project management concepts that could underpin an interdisciplinary series of PBL-oriented undergraduate engineering courses from its earliest stages. A cohort of engineering and engineering technology students participated in a sequence of sessions in which they undertook progressively challenging project assignments. Each project introduced new constraints that required the students to address additional aspects of project management. Results from an end-of-year questionnaire showed that the student participants had strongly positive impressions of their experiences related to these exercises. A majority of students felt that they had enhanced skills that would be valuable in professional life (96%), they had held leadership roles and improved their leadership skills (92%), and had gained appreciation for the value of project planning (100%) and technical documentation (96%). It is anticipated that lessons learned from the project sequence will provide the framework for cross-disciplinary freshman and sophomore PBL assignments.

Yanik, P. M., & Ferguson, C. W., & Kaul, S., & Yan, Y. (2017, June), A Pilot Program in Open-Ended Problem Solving and Project Management Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/27494

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015