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Creating Meaningful Experiences Through Extracurricular Project-Based Experiential Learning

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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

Making, Hacking, and Extracurricular Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Kyle Dukart University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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Dr. Dukart graduated with his B.A. in English and Honors from the University of North Dakota in 1997, followed by an M.A. in English in 1999 and a B.A. in Computer Science in 2002. He recently received (2016) his Ed.D. emphasizing Higher Education from the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development from the University of Minnesota.

He has worked as an instructor and academic advisor at the University of North Dakota, the University of California, Berkeley, and at the University of Minnesota. He currently is the Administrative Director for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota, where he has taken a keen interest in the role of student groups in engineering education and implemented and manages the Exceed Lab, an interdisciplinary makerspace for students to design and build engineering projects.

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Educators, employers, and students all understand the value of both taking part in extracurricular activities and the importance of integrating experiential learning into the engineering curriculum. Students, and their faculty sponsors, have been melding these two experiences together for years through competition themed groups such as Solar Vehicle and Concrete Canoe clubs; outreach oriented groups like Engineers Without Borders; and more recently, general design-and-build clubs. Participation appears to be growing as the options proliferate and makerspaces become the norm across campuses, providing the necessary infrastructure and gathering space for successful projects.

Unfortunately, we know quite little about the impact that such extracurricular project-based experiential learning has on educating undergraduate students studying engineering. Informed by the literature in the fields of student engagement and experiential learning, this paper examines perceptions and experiences of nascent engineers to understand how these specific extracurricular activities contribute to their collegiate experience. Extracurricular projects refer to non-credit and non-paid design-and-build activities where the majority of the activity takes place in a campus context and is student driven.

Students who were taking part in extracurricular engineering projects while completing their four-year engineering degree at the University of Minnesota were included in this qualitative case study. Ten semi-structured hour long interviews (six males and four females) were conducted to collect the bulk of the data for the qualitative analysis. This data was supplemented with three observations and the collection and inspection of artifacts.

The study results are organized into findings on student perceptions and the experiential learning process. Key findings include extracurricular projects as an especially impactful engagement activity for engineering students. Such projects also are effective tools for increasing self-efficacy and motivation, especially among women, and serve as a particularly valuable career preparation experience. Additionally, the organic design-build process students engage in outside the structure of a classroom parallels with Kolb’s model of experiential learning, suggesting a particularly suitable method for educating engineers in the design process.

Going forward, engineering colleges and universities have multiple opportunities to enhance the participation rate and quality of their students’ access to extracurricular projects. This paper discusses these opportunities along with various challenges, while acknowledging that there is much unknown about the educational value of extracurricular project-based experiential learning. This paper hopes to help fill that gap in what may be a fast growing facet of an engineering student’s college experience.

Dukart, K. (2017, June), Creating Meaningful Experiences Through Extracurricular Project-Based Experiential Learning Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28085

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