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Biological Engineering Student Design Projects With Real Clients

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.107.1 - 4.107.7

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Paper Authors

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Ann D. Christy

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Marybeth Lima

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Session 1308

Biological Engineering Student Design Projects With Real Clients

Ann D. Christy, Marybeth Lima The Ohio State University / Louisiana State University


This paper examines the use of student engineering design problems for real clients that require a multidisciplinary team approach to solve them. Design projects are described including animal habitats for a variety of wild animals, an inner-city playground, food-grade bacteriocin bioseparation apparatus, environmental control systems for a tiger habitat (in conjunction with the animal habitat student design team), and ozone disinfection of apples for cider production. Clients for these projects included university planning committees, local companies, zoning commissions, and researchers in food science and horticulture. Most of the student designs are now in the process of being built or implemented. The interactions between client and class are described and updates on the status of the projects are presented.

I. Introduction

Student design projects that are real and relevant and that can be conducted with the input from practicing professionals are desirable in engineering education.12 The first two steps in the quality function deployment (QFD) design methodology, as described in Ullman11, are to identify the customer and determine the customers’ requirements. Direct interaction with the customer gives engineering students a more realistic experience of design, and better preparation for their professional careers. However, as Christianson and Rohrbach1 point out, the customers’ consideration may be subtle and may require ongoing dialogue and questioning between the student designers and the client/customer. Industry has been critical of engineering education that does not produce graduates who are sufficiently knowledgeable about how design is practiced in industry or who are able to deal with open-ended problems.8 Interacting with real clients is a good way to enhance ties between industry and academia. Another method to enhance industrial ties is the use of student portfolios.2, 5

Much of the literature on linking industry with engineering design education focuses on capstone design courses.4 Although the projects described in this paper were done as part of specific content related engineering courses and not as part of a capstone design experience, the literature on capstone courses can inform the practice of bringing real clients to engineering education at any level. Sources of student design projects include the instructor, the students themselves, other departments within the university, engineering societies, and industry.4 A survey of 360 departments at 173 engineering schools reported that 64% involved some form of industry sponsorship in their capstone design courses.10 Of these 33% had weekly contact between the students and the industry representative, 27% had monthly contact, 31% had contact at the start and finish of the project, and 17% used other patterns of contact. It was thought that local

Christy, A. D., & Lima, M. (1999, June), Biological Engineering Student Design Projects With Real Clients Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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