June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Design in Engineering Education
15.84.1 - 15.84.12
A Risk Assessment Tool For Managing Student Design Projects
Many design projects done by undergraduate students carry a high degree of risk because of inex- perience. In many cases students tend to ignore the risks and focus on the project elements that are the most familiar. To aid senior project students in this process the author has developed a method that is relatively objective and simple to apply. The outcome is an identified set of risks that stu- dent teams can use to prioritize issues and focus efforts. This is done by listing all major project concepts, components, methods, alternate approaches, and more. A ranking is then assigned based upon clear criteria. The designers must then justify a lower risk score. And, high risk elements are addressed first. Throughout the project students are expected to drive down the risk throughout the project until delivery, when the risk is negligible.
At Grand Valley State University project work is integrated through the curriculum. Students begin with design-build projects in the freshman year. The complexity of the project work is increased until the senior project. The course projects are used to teach students the fundamentals of project management, and provide experience in free form decision making and project execu- tion. The senior project experience is positioned as a finishing exercise before the students join industry. Senior projects involves the design and build of production equipment, test equipment, and new product designs for local companies. In 2009 the total materials costs were over $170,000 for 12 projects. These projects must meet industrial standards and require approval by the sponsor. And, while failure can be acceptable in course projects it is not permissible for the senior project.
Given these requirements the projects are carefully selected and managed to ensure success1. Tools used include tracking tools for labor tasks, budget, Gantt charts, meeting minutes, weekly meetings, sign-offs on specifications, concepts, and detailed design proposals. In addition faculty expertise is used to guide the students. The composition of the project varies to meet the demands of the projects but typically teams have three to six members from all four disciplines; Computer, Electrical, Mechanical, and Product Design and Manufacturing Engineering. Examples of typical projects are shown in Figure 1.
The students have had varying levels of exposure to the design process through undergraduate course projects. At best the students have done multiple projects with outside sponsors. As a min- imum students have done a half dozen internal projects. In all cases the student are exposed to a process where they must do design work first. The designs are critically reviewed. Finally the stu-
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