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A Versatile Guide and Rubric to Scaffold and Assess Engineering Design Projects

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Best of DEED

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.127.1 - 23.127.18



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Paper Authors


Robert L. Nagel James Madison University

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Dr. Robert Nagel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University. Dr. Nagel joined the James Madison University after completing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. He has a B.S. from Tri-State University (now Trine University) and a M.S. from the University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri University of Science and Technology), both in mechanical engineering. Dr. Nagel has performed research with the United States Army Chemical Corps, General Motors Research and Development Center, and the United States Air Force Academy. His research interests are in the area of conceptual design and engineering design education. Specifically, Dr. Nagel’s research activities include understanding customer needs, the use functional and process modeling to understand design problems, design for sustainability, and design for accessibility.

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Olga Pierrakos James Madison University

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OLGA PIERRAKOS is an associate professor and founding faculty member of the James Madison University Department of Engineering, which graduated its inaugural class in May 2012. At JMU, Dr. Pierrakos is the Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering Education (CIEE) and Director of the Advanced Thermal Fluids Laboratory. Her interests in engineering education research center around recruitment and retention, engineer identity, engineering design instruction and methodology, learning through service, problem based learning methodologies, assessment of student learning, as well as complex problem solving. Her other research interests lie in cardiovascular fluid mechanics, sustainability, and K-12 engineering outreach. Dr. Pierrakos is a 2009 NSF CAREER Awardee. Dr. Pierrakos holds a B.S. in Engineering Science and Mechanics, an M.S. in Engineering Mechanics, and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Virginia Tech.

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Jacquelyn Kay Nagel James Madison University

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Dr. Jacquelyn K. Nagel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University. Prior to JMU she worked as engineering contractor at Mission Critical Technologies working on the DARPA funded Meta-II Project. Dr. Nagel has seven years of diversified engineering design experience, both in academia and industry, and has experienced engineering design in a range of contexts, including: product design, biomimetic design, electrical and control system design, manufacturing system design and design for the factory floor. She earned her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Oregon State University, and her M.S. and B.S. in Manufacturing Engineering and Electrical Engineering, respectively, from the Missouri University of Science & Technology (formerly University of Missouri-Rolla). Dr. Nagel’s research interests include biomimicry, sensors, sustainable energy, engineering design, and manufacturing.

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Versatile Rubric for Assessment of Design Process Application in Engineering Design ProjectsOur relatively new engineering program has been designed to train the Engineer of 2020.The program was developed from the ground up to not be an engineering discipline-specificprogram, but to provide students training with an emphasis on engineering design, systemsthinking, and sustainability. Our vision is to produce cross-disciplinary engineer versatilists. Atthe heart of our program is the six-course engineering design sequence which providesinstruction on design theory (thinking, process, methods, tools, etc.), sustainability, ethics, teammanagement, and technical communication (both oral and written), while incorporating elementsof engineering science and analysis. Students apply design instruction in the context of twoprojects during the six-course sequence—a cornerstone project spanning the fall and springsemesters of the sophomore year, and a capstone project spanning the junior and senior academicyears.As our inaugural class neared their graduation and our program grew, it became clear that anengineering design process rubric that could be used from the first semester of the sophomoreyear through the final semester of senior year would be needed to ensure consistency acrossprojects. The diversity of projects has varied widely with projects spanning a variety oftraditional engineering disciplines. Example projects include electric motorcycles and scooters,composting reactors, fire-fighting robots, biology-inspired drag reduction systems, a health clinicfor sub-Saharan Africa, and a distributable hearing test system. This project diversity causesstudents to be exposed to a variety of different manifestations of the design process. During thefirst two runs of the capstone design sequence this diversity caused confusion among students,design instructors, and faculty advisors. To address and mitigate confusion, the design facultydeveloped and piloted a versatile design rubric that focuses on assessing the commonality acrossall design projects–the design process. With design as a core element of our program, the rubricwas designed such that it can be mapped to both our two-semester and four-semester studentprojects. This paper presents the versatile design process rubric as well as the process taken todesign the rubric. Implementation of the guide as well as the lessons learned after applying theguide to senior and junior projects as a grading rubric, feedback mechanism, and as an in-classguide for student reflection on a project’s process are given in this paper.

Nagel, R. L., & Pierrakos, O., & Nagel, J. K. (2013, June), A Versatile Guide and Rubric to Scaffold and Assess Engineering Design Projects Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19141

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