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Assessment of a New Design Stem Course Sequence

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Learning and Assessment I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.223.1 - 25.223.15

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Paper Authors


Robert G. Ryan California State University, Northridge

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Robert Ryan is an Associate Professor at California State University, Northridge. He has more than 20 years of experience teaching a wide variety of mechanical engineering courses, including fluid mechanics, heat transfer, mechanical measurements, and senior design. He is currently serving as Assessment Coordinator for the Mechanical Engineering Department's ABET review process. Ryan earned his Ph.D. degree from University of California, Los Angeles, in 1994.

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Assessment of a New Design Stem Course SequenceIn Fall 2009, the mechanical engineering department at our institution implemented significantchanges to our curriculum by creating a new course sequence focused on design. The coursesequence is distributed throughout the four years of the program, and culminates in thetraditional capstone senior design course. One of the features of the new sequence was therequirement of a team project in each course, including oral design reviews documenting theprojects’ progress. Enabling our students to continuously develop and demonstrate skills relatedto design and communication was the main incentive behind the changes to the design coursesequence.As part of our institution’s ABET assessment process, the author attended oral design reviews inall of the courses in the design sequence over the course of a single semester, in order to get a“snapshot” of the quality of these presentations. The presentations were evaluated for bothdesign content and effectiveness of communication, using a rubric which was developed andapproved by the department faculty. In most courses, both Preliminary Design Reviews andCritical Design Reviews were evaluated, in order to assess the entire design process frombeginning to end. All evaluations were performed independently by the author to provideconsistency in scoring.Analysis of the evaluation data aims to show that our students significantly enhance their designand communication skills as they progress through the mechanical engineering program. Also,perceived weaknesses are used to recommend strategies for continuous improvement to thiscourse sequence, as required by ABET’s Criterion Four.

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