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A Scalable Course Project to Accommodate Academic Variation

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Huihui Qi Grand Valley State University

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Dr. Qi is an assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering at Grand Valley State University. She earned her Ph.D degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers University. Dr. Qi’s teaching interests include Engineering Design, Solid Mechanics, Mechanical System Design and Computer Aided Design. Dr. Qi’s areas of interest and expertise include design sustainability, Life Cycle Assessment, decision making for optimal design, and Computer Aided Design.

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Hugh Jack Western Carolina University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jack is the Cass Ballenger Distinguished Professor of Engineering and Department Head of the School of Engineering and Technology within Western Carolina University. His interests include robotics, automation, and product design.

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Freshman engineering students present a variety of challenges. These include differences in preparation and motivation. When these students are combined in a required class it can lead to frustration on the part of instructor and learner. At [[University]] there is a first semester course entitled EGR 106 - Engineering Design I. Topics in this course include a multidiscplinary introduction to basic electronics, programming Arduino hardware in C, computer aided design (CAD), computer numerical control (CNC), and basic manufacturing knowledge. Throughout the course the material is taught in interwoven threads that are integrated with a final course project, a robot. In previous semesters the project was a line following robot that the students design, built, debugged, and the competed against their classmates. This provided a clean measurement of adequate. Students with better robot designs, and some luck, were able to make it to the final rounds of the competition.

By definition a competition has a winner and many ‘non-winners’. While this recognizes excellence it can demoralize otherwise good students. A solution was developed to encourage student excellence while allowing more challenged students to participate in a meaningful way. The competition was divided into multiple events with the requirement that a team must participate successfully in at least one event to receive a passing grade in the project. Winning an event would lead to better grades and limited bragging rights. Student teams that won or placed well in multiple events were ranked as overall winners. This tiered structure allowed teams with limitations to perform well, but encouraged the high achieving teams to stretch.

The paper will outline the various events in our informally named ‘Robot Olympiad’. The approaches of the teams will be discussed and how these resulted in a recognized and genuine successes. In addition the method eliminated the need for hollow praise for middling teams, and made poor results stand out.

Qi, H., & Jack, H. (2016, June), A Scalable Course Project to Accommodate Academic Variation Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27275

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