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Benefits of Mentoring Students in Design Competitions

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Capstone Courses and Design Education

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.278.1 - 22.278.9



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Paper Authors


Scott F. Kiefer York College of Pennsylvania

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Scott Kiefer began his career at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez where he spent two years. He then spent six years at Tri-State University (now Trine University), a small teaching college in Angola, Indiana. He then taught at Michigan State University for two and a half years, and is currently at York College of Pennsylvania.

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Craig W. Somerton Michigan State University

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Craig W. Somerton is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University. He teaches in the area of thermal engineering including thermodynamics, heat transfer, and thermal design. He has also taught the capstone design course for the department. Dr. Somerton has research interests in computer design of thermal systems, appropriate technology, and application of continuous quality improvement principles to engineering education. He received his B.S. in 1976, his M.S. in 1979, and his Ph.D. in 1982, all in engineering from UCLA.

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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.

Kiefer, S. F., & Somerton, C. W. (2011, June), Benefits of Mentoring Students in Design Competitions Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17559

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