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Competition In Senior Design Projects

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.109.1 - 1.109.5



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Paper Authors

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John N. Berry

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Dr. David G. Leupp

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Capt Steven D. Pinski

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Steven Barrett

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1532

Competition in Senior Design Projects

Capt Steven D. Pinski, Capt John N. Berry, Lt Col Steven F. Barrett and Dr. David G. Leupp United States Air Force Academy

Abstract - This paper describes how learning is enhanced during senior engineering design projects when market-place constraints such as competition, limited resources, and administration are added to the assignment. Many engineering programs focus on merely completion of senior design projects; however, senior projects benefit from market-place constraints because students are exposed to real-world conditions and encouraged to focus on simple, inexpensive, and robust designs. The role of the instructor and student perceptions are discussed as we explore the advantages and disadvantages of using competition in senior design projects. Several types of competitive projects have been completed by seniors in the Electrical Engineering Department at the Air Force Academy. We discuss the goals and requirements for these projects and offer ideas for many other feasible design projects. Finally, student system integration issues such as scheduling, manpower, and cost are considered in light of competition. While the possibility of a “win at all cost” mentality is a disadvantage, the real-world experience gained through competition promotes better understanding of subject material by all students.

1 Introduction

The Department of Electrical Engineering at the United States Air Force Academy has tried several different competitive senior design projects with great success. One of the overriding reasons for the success of these design projects is the competition itself. The most recent competitive project was a basic remote control car chassis which was required to autonomously follow a strip of electrical tape placed on the floor in some random pattern. This Autonomous Line Following (ALF) vehicle could be controlled using any electronic equipment the students could design and install on the chassis. Various types of competitive projects have advantages over noncompetitive projects; however, the remote control car chassises have a somewhat unique advantage since they can be stripped of the student-designed electronics and used in subsequent semesters.

2 Advantages of Competition

There are two categories of competition advantages in senior design projects. First, there are the actual learning benefits not realized with an individually completed design project. An individually designed project does not have to be “better” than another project. Second, there are the motivational benefits of competition which provide the atmosphere to enhance learning. A student motivated by competition performs better and learns more than a student merely working toward “completion” of a project.

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Berry, J. N., & Leupp, D. D. G., & Pinski, C. S. D., & Barrett, S. (1996, June), Competition In Senior Design Projects Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--5923

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