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Board # 16 :Development of a Graduate Project Management Course Where Graduate Students Manage Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Design Teams (Work in Progress)

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Biomedical Division Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Joseph Towles University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Joseph Towles is a faculty associate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Joe completed his PhD in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University and a research post-doctoral fellowship in the Sensory Motor Performance Program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Northwestern University. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of engineering education and neuromuscular biomechanics. With respect to engineering education, Joe focuses on assessment and evaluation of student learning; and innovation and research in approaches to enhance student learning. Concerning neuromuscular biomechanics, Joe’s research interests are in translational studies aimed at elucidating the mechanics and control of the hand following neurologic and musculoskeletal injury with the goal of developing innovative rehabilitative and surgical interventions that improve grasp function. Computational and experimental approaches are used to investigate intrinsic characteristics of muscles, neuromuscular control and sensorimotor integration in the context of functional restoration of grasp.

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John G. Davis University of Wisconsin, Madison

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John G. Davis, PE

John holds dual appointments at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, College of Engineering. He is an Assistant Faculty Associate and Program Director in the Department of Engineering Professional Development and a Research Engineer at the Industrial Refrigeration Consortium (IRC). John’s professional interests include HVAC products and systems, DX refrigeration, industrial refrigeration, geothermal system design, thermal systems optimization, building science and building energy management, technical leadership and project management. John is a member of ASHRAE.

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Brian Frushour Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF)

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Brian Frushour is an Intellectual Property Associate at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. He works with researchers in engineering and the physical sciences to identify and protect inventions resulting from research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of South Carolina in 2000 and his M.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California-Berkeley in 2003.

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Project management, a course/field that aims to teach students the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements, is popular among a variety of professions. Project management courses are often taught online, or in short-course format with a series of power lectures with little to no application. In some cases, semester-long courses may be taught using case studies. Given the known benefits of hands-on activities for learning, we investigated the feasibility of teaching a semester-long project management course with embedded hands-on “management” activities to practice principles of project management.

We developed a team-taught, semester-long, introductory project management course for graduate engineering students. The course was designed to introduce students to the project management process--including project initiation, planning, execution and closure--in a hands-on way. The curriculum of the graduate project management course was linked to that of an undergraduate biomedical engineering design course. Lecture material in the graduate course was intended to prepare students to interact with and manage the design activities of undergraduate design teams as a given team realized a physical deliverable, according to pre-determined specifications, by the end of the semester. Graduate project management students were required to meet with undergraduate engineering design teams on a weekly basis to complete project management deliverables such as a project charter and work breakdown structure assessment. Brief surveys, consisting of questions rated on a 5-point scale, were administered to the graduate project management students and the undergraduate engineering design students at the beginning and end of the semester to assess achievement of the project management course objectives.

Seven of nine graduate students (78%) in the project management course and 16 of 36 undergraduate students in the engineering design course completed the surveys. Project management students reported being more knowledgeable about the topic as a result of the course (mean score changed from 1.4 (week 1) to 4.3 (week 13); 5 = knowledgeable), They also indicated that having hands-on activities did not hinder but mostly enhanced learning (mean score: 4.29; 5 = strongly agree). Both the graduate project management students and undergraduate engineering design students believed the impact of the project management students on the design experience of the undergraduate students was only moderate (mean score: 3.1; 5 = high impact) throughout the semester.

Comments from graduate project management students suggested that moderate impact on the design experience of undergraduate engineering students may have been due to the misalignment of the syllabus assignments in the graduate course as compared to those in the undergraduate course. Comments from the undergraduate students suggested the the moderate impact on their design experience was likely due to meeting just once per week to talk about the project. The undergraduates also cited an incompatibility between the syllabus assignments in the graduate course versus their own. Preliminary work in the design of a graduate-level project management course with embedded hands-on management activities may require more careful design of the course schedule and assignments; as well as planning more meetings with design students that more realistically mimic interactions between a project manager and her project team.

Towles, J., & Davis, J. G., & Frushour, B. (2017, June), Board # 16 :Development of a Graduate Project Management Course Where Graduate Students Manage Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Design Teams (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27793

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