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Balancing Learning Objectives And Success In A Multidisciplinary Senior Design Project

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Product Innovation And Entrepreneurship

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.302.1 - 12.302.8



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Paper Authors

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Peter Johnson Valparaiso University

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Kathleen Sevener Valparaiso University

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Doug Tougaw Valparaiso University

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Jeffrey Will Valparaiso University

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

Balancing Learning Objectives and Success in a Multidisciplinary Senior Design Project

Abstract—In the Fall of 2005, a team of five engineering seniors was assigned a multidisciplinary senior project in which they were to design and build a power generation system for a small village on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua. The power generated was to be used for lights in a small clinic and a classroom, a refrigerator for vaccines, and an emergency radio. In light of tight budgetary constraints, students decided to augment their budget through fund-raising and expand the scope of the project to a fully-installed, on-site, working prototype, which would require all five students to travel to the village in Nicaragua. This aggressive plan of work was instituted by the students themselves.

As instructors for this course, we were charged with two important tasks: to guide the students towards the learning objectives set forth for the course and to help the students fulfill their goal of providing power to a village in need. In previous implementations of projects for this course, the small scale of former projects allowed the course to set the schedule for assignments, reports, and prototype progress. However, the real-world nature of the Nicaragua project sought to drive the schedule of the course, these two needs at times appearing to conflict with each other. This paper discusses these apparent conflicts, the decisions made by the adviser and other faculty members in the course to resolve these conflicts, and the reasoning that drove these decisions. The successes of the project will also be discussed. Two of these successes are that four of the five team members were able to travel to Nicaragua to install the wind generator and that it has been operating continually since March 2006.

Outline 1. Introduction One of the many challenges that face instructors of a design course is ensuring that all learning objectives are being met for multiple design teams working on significantly different projects. Although this has often been a challenge in the senior design course sequence at ________ University, it became even more challenging when an international service project was selected for the Fall 2005 semester of the course. The goal of this project was to provide a power source to a remote village in Nicaragua so that the villagers could have lights in a school and health clinic as well as the ability to contact a local hospital in emergencies. Spring break was found to be the best time to implement this project, which provided more challenges due to the general course schedule conflicting with the planned schedule for this project. Further complicating things was the pressure to succeed on a project as important as this one. While in many cases the learning experience works best when students are allowed to fail and learn from these failures, the benefits that a successful project could bring to a community in need encouraged course instructors to more closely guide the team while still allowing them to explore solutions to the problems on their own.

This paper will describe the current course structure in the multidisciplinary senior design course at ________ University as well as the goal of this particular project. The conflicts between the this service-based project and the structure of the course as well as the resolution of these conflicts will follow. Finally, a discussion of the successes of the project and the lessons that were learned, as well as the future impacts of this experience will conclude this paper.

Johnson, P., & Sevener, K., & Tougaw, D., & Will, J. (2007, June), Balancing Learning Objectives And Success In A Multidisciplinary Senior Design Project Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2795

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