June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Design in Engineering Education
13.141.1 - 13.141.19
Achieving Teamwork in Design Projects: Development and Preliminary Results of a Spreadsheet Tool
Teamwork is instrumental for the success of many engineering design projects. Properly executed, outstanding teams utilize skills involving collaboration, communication, decision making, and self-management as they develop concepts, configurations, and detail designs.
Not all engineering students have or use teamwork skills, however. And it may not be their fault. In some cases, course instructors incorrectly assume that students have learned teamwork skills, and will automatically use them. In other cases, instructors provide a meager introduction to teamwork, but do not follow up. We can, and must, further improve students’ teamwork skills by following up with appropriate feedback instruments, on a regular basis, such as mid-term and end of term peer and self-evaluations.
The paper discusses key elements of teamwork and how they relate to engineering design project teams. Then a spreadsheet tool and results of its use is presented. The tool requires each student to evaluate himself/herself and his/her teams mates covering 15 teamwork skills. The tool has been implemented over the last year and a half in the senior design project course and incorporates advanced spreadsheet features including hot-linked graphics, protected macros, student identification numbers, passwords, hidden rows and hidden sheets.
As we participate on engineering design projects we learn to appreciate how rewarding, but yet, how difficult design projects can be. As suggested by Lewis1 Starting with the project initiation, we often experience wild enthusiasm, fully excited about the challenges ahead. Later, a feeling of disillusionment usually sets-in as we realize the enormity of the work ahead. This sometimes leads to chaos among our co-workers to determine who should be doing what. Then senior management often begins to search for the guilty parties, leading to the punishment of the innocent and promotion of the non-participants, and finally the re-definition of the project requirements.
An engineering design project may be the most difficult assignment for an engineer, requiring the integrated and competent execution of: 1. engineering principles and practice, 2. design methods and procedures, 3. project management methods, and most important, 4. teamwork.
A project can be defined as a unique sequence of work tasks, undertaken once, to achieve a specific set of objectives.2 Engineering design projects, in particular, focus on solving specific
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