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Decision Making In The Design Build Process Among First Year Engineering Students

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

FPD10 - Freshman Engineering Introduction to Design

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.352.1 - 13.352.10



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Paper Authors


Phil Schlosser Ohio State University

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Dr. Schlosser currently teaches courses in the First-Year Engineering Program at The Ohio State University. He earned the B.Sc. degree in Engineering Physics with a minor in Electrical Engineering and M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Nuclear Engineering, all from Ohio State University. Prior to joining the faculty of the First-Year Engineering Program, Dr. Schlosser was a professor of Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering at The Ohio State University. Dr. Schlosser has received a number of U.S. and foreign patents for various electronic devices and systems. In addition to his teaching activities, he has started several successful electronics companies in Columbus, OH.

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Michael Parke Ohio State University

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Dr. Parke has been teaching courses in the First-Year Engineering Program at The Ohio State University for the past eight years. He earned dual B.A. and B.S. degrees in Mathematics and Physics from Humboldt State University and a Ph.D. degree in Physical Oceanography from U.C. San Diego. He worked for 12 years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on satellite missions and the design of satellite missions. He then worked at the Center for Space Research at the University of Colorado and later at The Ohio State University, on global applications of satellite data to geodesy and calibration of global satellite data.

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John Merrill Ohio State University

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

Decision-Making in the Design-Build Process among First-Year Engineering Students


Students in a first-year engineering program at The Ohio State University are required to complete a quarter-long course which incorporates a team-based, design-build final project. Design skills among first-year students are often found to be rudimentary, and teaching the skills necessary for students to successfully complete a design-build project remains a constant challenge. The final project requires the design and construction of a functional roller coaster model using material from a custom-made kit provided to the students. Key components of the project are: initial design, analysis and revision, initial construction and testing, design changes (to correct defects and meet performance requirements), final design, and measurement and performance analysis. The teams submit preliminary designs as 2D drawings, with the option to use 3D CAD software (Autodesk Inventor 2008©). They then develop initial energy models of their coasters using Excel, use their results to find design problems, and revise their design. Once they have approved revisions, they begin to build their coasters. Upon completing the coaster requirements, students document their final design, including a revised Excel energy model. In order to validate their designs, students use eight custom-made speed sensors that they attach to the coaster track to measure the speed of the coaster car at critical locations along the track. Speed measurements are captured in LabVIEW, analyzed, and submitted in a final report as evidence of how well the Excel design model reflected the actual behavior of the roller coaster. The project culminates with competitions among teams, concluding with an oral presentation by each team on lessons learned and recommended design and construction improvements. This paper emphasizes how students who have little or no prior engineering experience conceptualize and represent a complex design problem and how they use both theoretical models and actual test data to make informed design decisions.


In 2001, the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University introduced significant changes into the curriculum for all first-year engineering students, with the addition of hands-on laboratory projects and team-based design and build projects1,2. The motivations for doing so at the first-year level were threefold: (1) to achieve significant improvement in the year-to-year retention rate of engineering students, especially through graduation, (2) to expose students early to realistic engineering projects containing elements of uncertainty, risk, and many acceptable solutions, and (3) to cultivate teamwork, project management, creative thinking and effective communication skills.

While certain aspects of improvement are difficult to quantify, the first-year program has been successful in all three areas, aided by higher admission standards, direct enrollment to the College, and improved advising strategies. For example, 86% of the Autumn 2006 first-quarter

Schlosser, P., & Parke, M., & Merrill, J. (2008, June), Decision Making In The Design Build Process Among First Year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4215

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015