June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Design in Engineering Education
26.165.1 - 26.165.17
Aesthetics of Design: a Case StudyOverviewIn a technical elective offered in a Mechanical Engineering department, students designed andbuilt projects while developing a design aesthetic. Three instructors offered insights frommultiple disciplines, including those outside mechanical engineering, such as electricalengineering, computer science, photography, and music. Students were placed in resource teams.In these teams, each student acted as a consultant on his teammates’ projects, and acted as teamlead for his own project. Here we describe the novel course design, offer instructors’ insights, aswell as results from student surveys (n=20) and student interviews (n=4) both pre-and post-course. Results suggest a pent-up demand among students for an outlet to design and createphysical objects. Also, student data highlights the gap between learning practices andprofessional practices in engineering. We suggest revisions to our pedagogical structure andbroader implications for our teaching methods.MotivationIn many engineering design courses, multiple constraints restrict students’ inspiration, and theaesthetic sense is de-emphasized or ignored completely. We wanted to emphasize aesthetic senseas a guiding principle in design. As a result, course material focused on different notions ofaesthetics to help students broaden their vision, and the instructors imposed only one constrainton the project: that the object be dynamic. (Students had logistical constraints such as cost andavailability of tools.)Course StructureThe course was offered during a compressed, three-week summer session that met Monday–Friday for 3.5 hours a day. Each week ended with a design review: Week 1: preliminary designreview; Week 2: critical design review; Week 3: the final design review. The end of the thirdweek featured public presentation of the projects. A short paper accompanied the final project,describing their design process, motivations, and sense of aesthetic.NoveltyThe instructors encouraged students to reflect upon their design choices. To make these choicesvisible, students wrote daily blog posts and participated in classroom activities. One such activitywas an empathetic design thinking workshop, where each student articulated what she wanted todesign to another student, who then had to outline a design for the first student. The final paperassignment asked students to not only detail traditional metrics, such as construction, costs, andfunctionality, but also address if higher aesthetic goals were met.OutcomesWhen enabled to work on personally meaningful projects, many students took risks, attemptingprojects outside their existing skillset. The course’s emphasis on design and reflection upondesign decisions prompted students to focus their energy on the creative side of engineering.While one initial goal of the course was to improve students’ perception of design, what wefound was that these engineering students already perceive design in the world around them.What was lacking was an opportunity to express their own aesthetic of design.
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: © 2015 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