June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.278.1 - 22.278.9
Using Student Design Competitions to Advance Your Career It can be very difficult for young faculty members to find the time required to developnew courses and establish a research program while continuing to dedicate the time necessary forstudents in their regular teaching load. In addition, without an established reputation amongstudents and secured funding, it can be very difficult for young faculty to recruit high qualitystudents for their graduate research programs. One way to maximize the benefit of time spent isto teach small undergraduate independent study courses using projects that will compete atstudent design competitions. Teaching independent study courses of six to eight carefullychosen students does not require preparation of polished course material, and the students can beevaluated on the outcomes of their projects without spending a lot of time with writtenhomework or exams. If good undergraduate students are selected for the courses, the timecommitment from the faculty member can be as little as two or three hours a week. Furthermore,this contact time with the students is very beneficial in determining if each student wouldeventually be beneficial to the faculty member’s research program, and can also be used topersuade students that they should apply to graduate school and become a part of the facultymember’s research team. In addition, if the student design competition projects are chosencarefully, the students will learn valuable skills as an undergraduate that they will later use in agraduate research program. The students completing the projects can also be asked to assist indeveloping projects and handouts that can later be used as laboratory exercises or lecture coursematerial as part of their independent study course assignments. Offering an independent courseusing a student design competition project is a great way to maximize the benefit of time spentby both students and the course instructor. Of course, if the projects do well at the student designcompetitions, it is also very nice publicity for the faculty member and the school. This paper describes two different independent study courses taught using student designcompetition projects. One of the courses was taught at a small private college, and the other wastaught at a large state university. Because of the radical difference in expectations put upon thefaculty at the two different institutions, the benefits to the faculty member were different in eachcase. The benefits to the students were much more similar in the two cases. Because of thesmall number of students involved, student assessment was done mainly with personalinterviews.
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