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An Integrated Design Course In Laser Engineering

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.71.1 - 1.71.5



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Kelin Kuhn

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1232

An Integrated Design Course in Laser Engineering

Kelin Kuhn University of Washington

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington typically pursue a two year pre-engineering program and enter the Department of Electrical Engineering in Autumn of their junior year. During their junior and senior years, students must complete a core curriculum of six courses. In addition, students must take one elective course in each of two different breadth areas and at least three elective courses in one depth area.

These requirements make it necessary to construct breadth courses with good engineering science content as well as a significant design experience -- but which only consume a single quarter of the students' time. Furthermore, since resources cannot support both a breadth and depth version of a class, these classes must be detailed enough to serve as part of an in-depth sequence.

This paper will focus on the course Laser Engineering, which has been developed to meet these difficult requirements. The course includes a design project self-selected by the students. This paper will discuss the logistics of managing a self-selected design project format with limited economic and personnel resources. The discussion is oriented toward instructors who may be considering a similar self-selected design experience.

I. Introduction

The focus of the last four weeks of the quarter in the Laser Engineering class is the completion of a laboratory-based project where students design and construct some type of laser system. Design projects may be on any subject that relates to lasers. The only restriction is that the design project must involve the physical construction of something. "Paper" projects or software-only projects are not permitted in this course1.

These design activities are performed in teams. Team selection is made by the students -- however, I reserve the right to break "loose wheels" from teams and put them in teams of their own2. During the first five weeks of the quarter, approximately 15-20 minutes is spent each Monday going "around the room" and having each student briefly describe their concept for a design project. Generally by the fourth week, approximately 70% of the students have decided on a reasonable project and have formed into design teams3. Table I summarizes the student design projects in this class over the past five years.

1 It is quite easy to "lead" the students into a particular project direction. I have found that such projects are dramatically less successful than those the students select totally on their own. 2 Many studies show the value of NOT permitting students to form their own design teams. (See for example, Johnson D.W. , R.T. Johnson, and K.A. Smith, Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom, Interaction Press, Edina, MN, 1991) However, in this class, the student-selected teams have been quite successful. Perhaps this is because the students clump together based on common interests in a design activity rather than past friendships or similar academic performance. 3 Of course, there are always a few that make their project decisions at the very last minute. I will typically "lock" the design teams on the day that the written proposal is due.

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Kuhn, K. (1996, June), An Integrated Design Course In Laser Engineering Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6116

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