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Client-based Projects in Freshman Design

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

FPD III: Innovation in Design in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.316.1 - 25.316.13



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Paper Authors


Ann Saterbak Rice University

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Ann Saterbak is professor in the practice of bioengineering education and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Affairs for the Bioengineering Department at Rice. She earned her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and biochemistry at Rice in 1990 and a doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. After working at Shell for several years, she returned to Rice in 1999, where she was in on the ground floor of the nascent Bioengineering Department. Saterbak has developed laboratory courses in tissue culture, tissue engineering, bioprocessing, systems physiology, and mechanical testing. For that work, she received an ASEE National Award, the Robert G. Quinn Award for Excellence in Laboratory Instruction. She has also implemented new pedagogical methods and teaching standards to broaden students’ problem solving skills, scientific and technological literacy through real-world problems, problem- and project-based learning, and hands-on experiences. She also teaches Introduction to Engineering Design (ENGI 120) for the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership. In 2011, she won the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the university’s highest teaching award.

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Mark Embree Rice University

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Mark Embree is the Doerr Professor and Director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, and a professor of computational and applied mathematics at Rice. Educated in computer science and mathematics at Virginia Tech, Embree received his doctorate in numerical analysis at Oxford. His research interests focus on spectral theory for nonnormal matrices and the behavior of algorithms for large-scale linear algebra problems. Since its launch in 2010, Embree has directed RCEL in its efforts to challenge engineering students to develop into effective leaders and to devote their expertise toward solving pressing problems.

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Maria Oden Rice University

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Maria Oden is a professor in the practice of engineering education and Director of Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. She joined Rice in 2004, teaching bioengineering design and several bioengineering laboratory courses. Prior to this, she was on the faculty at UT-Houston Medical School in the Department of Orthopedics and also worked as an Engineering Consultant for the oil industry with Sage Engineering. She currently coordinates engineering design education initiatives at Rice University that provide students from all departments in the George R. Brown School of Engineering, Wiess School of Natural Sciences, and the School of Humanities with unique hands-on design experience and opportunities to test and carry their ideas to practice. In addition, her current interests focus on encouraging students to innovate medical and global health technologies. She strongly believes that undergraduate engineering students should all have the opportunity to work on real-world design challenges and ideally work in interdisciplinary teams. Her design teams have submitted numerous patent applications, have received many national and international awards, have moved their technologies into clinical trials, and, in a few cases, into the market.

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Client-based Projects in Freshman DesignAuthentic, client-based projects form the foundation for a new one-semester freshman designcourse at XXX University. Prior to Introduction to Engineering Design (ENGI 120) in spring2011, XXX University did not have any design-build courses for its freshman engineeringstudents. At the same time, incoming students were reporting that one of their primary interestsin engineering was to use their skills to solve real-world design problems, an opportunity thatwas only available in coursework during the senior year. Recognizing the need for a freshmanengineering design experience, the XXX Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL) and theOshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) combined resources to begin this course. Theprimary goals for this course were to (a) provide an opportunity for students to experience thepractical engineering design process even as they are immersed in fundamental math and sciencecourses, (b) encourage students to experience how knowledge from these fundamental coursescould be put to practical use, and (c) encourage retention in engineering.In ENGI 120, students learn the engineering design process and use it to solve meaningfulproblems drawn from local hospitals, local schools, international communities, and around theXXX University campus. Each freshman design team is coached by an “apprentice leader,” anupper-class student who is taking a course in engineering leadership sponsored by RCEL.Freshman design teams directly interview clients, complete a design context review, developdesign criteria, and brainstorm and evaluate solution. Student teams prototype and test theirsolutions in the OEDK, an interdisciplinary design workshop at XXX University. Recentprojects have included modifying a wheelchair for a boy with arthrogryposis, building a medicalexamination bed for a clinic in Nicaragua, modifying a surrey bicycle for the facilities staff oncampus, and developing an elbow mannequin for physicians to practice reduction for patientswith nursemaid’s elbow. Written and oral communications are strongly emphasized in thiscourse. Student teams write weekly technical memos and give two oral presentations on theirprogress. Apprentice leaders support freshman students in developing teamwork skills,providing feedback on written or oral reports, and fabricating prototypes in the OEDK.Assessment of the course over three semesters will be presented. Knowledge of the designprocess before and after the course is assessed. Survey results indicate that freshman studentsfelt ENGI 120 had helped them develop skills in engineering design, engineering problem-solving, prototyping, teamwork, and writing and editing technical documents. The course wasless effective in helping students decide on an engineering major and see applications for theirfundamental math and science courses in engineering design. Because the course is fairly new,we do not yet have data to assess whether retention in engineering is enhanced by participation inthe freshman design course.

Saterbak, A., & Embree, M., & Oden, M. (2012, June), Client-based Projects in Freshman Design Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21074

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