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Bringing Technology to the First-year Design Experience Through the Use of Electronic Design Notebooks

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First Year Programs Division Poster Session: The Best Place to Really Talk about First-Year Education

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.293.1 - 26.293.10



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Paper Authors


Tracy Jane Puccinelli College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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In 2011, Puccinelli joined the Biomedical Engineering (BME) Department as a Lecturer and Outreach Coordinator. As part of the BME design faculty, she works on curriculum development, as well as innovative approaches for teaching design. Puccinelli coordinates BME outreach, advising BME seniors as they develop interactive, hands-on activities for K-12 students that teach biomedical engineering concepts. Additionally, in 2012, she began teaching an introductory engineering course (Introduction to Engineering Design) to incoming freshmen in the College of Engineering. In 2014, Puccinelli became a coordinator for the Introduction to Engineering Design course, which has become a popular course with more than 900 students enrolled per year, and an expected enrollment of 1000 students this coming academic year.

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John Murphy University of Wisconsin, Madison

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John Murphy received a B.S. degree in Mathematics in 1983 and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1985, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was employed for four years as an Aerospace Engineer with Rockwell International in Los Angeles, concentrating in Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) rocket performance and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) kinetic kill experiment verification. He then worked as an energy consultant for Wisconsin Electric Company, concentrating his efforts in their demand-side management energy conservation program. Murphy completed an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1992. He has continued his employment with the Engineering Physics Department since then. He completed an M.B.A. degree from Arizona State University in December of 2006.
Murphy is a licensed P.E. and currently works in mechanical and nuclear engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Engineering Physics.

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Bringing Technology to the First Year Design Experience through the use of Electronic Design NotebooksIncluding a first-year engineering design experience in the curriculum has been shown toenhance retention in STEM. In our Introduction to Engineering design course, studentsparticipate in lectures covering design topics that span multiple disciplines of engineering. In thelaboratory section, they work in teams of 8-12 to solve a real-world, client-based engineeringdesign problem proposed mostly by individuals in the local community. The students learnfirsthand the design process, from brainstorming, design specifications, literature research, anddesign evaluation to design implementation. Through this process the students understand thevalue of team-work and maintaining a design notebook.Over the last five years, the number of students taking our course has nearly doubled to now over900 students per year. Currently, there are 13 instructors to instruct the laboratory sections of thiscourse. These instructors are tenure-track faculty, teaching staff, and individuals from industry..To assist the instructors, each lab section has two student assistants who have previously takenthe course or have an engineering background. Maintaining consistency between labs andevaluating the course work for the increasing number of the students has become arduous.Especially, assessing their design notebooks which on average are 33 per laboratory section.Design notebooks are a critical piece that highlights an individual’s contribution to the team andprotects their intellectual property. Additionally, even as freshman, the students utilize a varietyof technology in their designs, much of which is difficult to print or include in a bound papernotebook. To combat these issues, we implemented LabArchives electronic laboratory notebooks(ELN) as a replacement for the previously used paper notebooks. First, as a pilot in three sectionsin spring 2014, and later in all sections for fall 2014. The ELNs have shown benefits for upperclassmen design classes. The benefits include neatness, organization, quality and quantity ofentries, and availability of the content to instructors, clients, and teammates.1Here we assess the use of the ELN in the freshman Introduction to Engineering course, includingthe facilitation of instruction, enhanced student performance, and the added benefit of peer-to-peer learning through notebook sharing. Evaluation is being performed through student andinstructor surveys as well as course grading assessments with these initial results andobservations from the spring pilot and full results pending the completion of the fall term.1. “Experiences with Electronic Laboratory Notebooks in Real-World, Client-Based BME Design Courses.” In ASEE Annual Conference, Indianapolis, IN, 2014.

Puccinelli, T. J., & Murphy, J. (2015, June), Bringing Technology to the First-year Design Experience Through the Use of Electronic Design Notebooks Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23632

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