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Assessing the Effectiveness of a Large, Open-Ended Design Project in a Junior-Level Engineering Technology Course

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

ET Projects

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


Robert Scott Pierce P.E. Western Carolina University

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Robert Scott Pierce is an Assistant Professor of Engineering and Technology at Western Carolina University. He received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech in 1993. Prior to his teaching career, he spent 14 years in industry designing automated equipment.

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Wesley L. Stone Western Carolina University

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Dr. Wes Stone is an associate professor in the School of Engineering and Technology at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. He earned his bachelors degree from the University of Texas at Austin, masters degree from Penn State, and PhD from Georgia Tech, all in Mechanical Engineering. His research interests include manufacturing processes, Lean Six Sigma, and outdoor gear design and testing. He also serves as the program director for Engineering Technology at WCU.

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Sudhir Kaul Western Carolina University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Sudhir Kaul is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. Dr. Kaul earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in 2006 and has held academic positions since 2008. His research interests include dynamic modeling for vibration isolation, motorcycle dynamics, fracture diagnostics, and engineering education. Dr. Kaul’s industry experience includes development of vibration isolation systems and the design and development of motorcycle powertrains and hydraulic systems.

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At our university, junior-level Engineering Technology majors with an Applied Systems Technology concentration take a course entitled, “Rapid Tooling and Prototyping.” Historically, the focus of this course has been on machine shop practice and the use of numerically-controlled machine tools in manufacturing. Students in the course learned to select appropriate tooling and process conditions and to use computer-aided manufacturing software to generate NC code. These manufacturing-related skills are an important component of rapid tooling and prototyping, however they are not the only component. Rapid development of new products also requires effective use of computer-aided engineering tools for computer aided design, analysis, and manufacturing. During Fall semester of 2017, we implemented modifications to the Rapid Tooling and Prototyping course that were intended to emphasize the effective use of computer aided engineering tools in the product development and prototyping process. These modifications included the inclusion of a six-week-long, unstructured design and fabrication project. The project was included in order to give students experience with the entire computer-aided design and fabrication process and to apply it to their own, original design. In order to measure the effectiveness of these course modifications, students were given mid-term and end-of-term surveys to assess their perceptions of learning and student engagement. Additionally, achievement of course outcomes was assessed using student work. Interestingly, these measurements indicated that students did not respond well to the open-ended nature of the design project. In response to this feedback, the course was re-structured for the Fall of 2018 and the large, open-ended project was replaced by a series of smaller, more well-defined design and fabrication projects. The 2018 students were given the same mid-term and end-of term surveys as the 2017 students and their work was assessed in the same manner as the students from the previous year.

In this paper, we present the two different pedagogical approaches that were taken in the course during the two consecutive years. We present the results of the student perceptions of learning surveys and the assessment of student work for both years. We then discuss students’ response to the modifications that we have made in the course. In particular, we examine students’ response to the unstructured, original design project and the effects that the project had on student engagement. We then draw conclusions as to how original design and fabrication project work can be most effectively integrated into an Engineering Technology course.

Pierce, R. S., & Stone, W. L., & Kaul, S. (2019, June), Assessing the Effectiveness of a Large, Open-Ended Design Project in a Junior-Level Engineering Technology Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32120

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