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Design, The Next Generation: A First Year Course In Product Design

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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

13.376.1 - 13.376.15



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Paper Authors


Susan Montgomery University of Michigan

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Susan Montgomery is a lecturer and program advisor in the Chemical Engineering Dept. at the University of Michigan. She earned a BSEChE from the University of Michigan, and PhD ChE from Princeton University. She is the ASEE Campus representative and faculty advisor to the ASEE graduate student group. She leads a team of students developing educational software for chemical engineering.

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Rodney Johnson University of Michigan

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Rod Johnson is a lecturer in Technical Communication at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. He has a Ph.D in Linguistics from the University of Michigan. He was part of the original team developing Michigan's Introduction to Engineering course and has taught it since 1992.

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

Design, the Next Generation: A first-year course in product design


In recent years the teaching of engineering, exemplified by ABET Criteria 20001, has recognized that professional engineers have to master a wide variety of skills and responsibilities—not only traditional engineering science and problem solving, but working in multidisciplinary teams and effectively communicating about their work. The challenge for educators has been to integrate this more holistic view of an engineer’s training with the already demanding curricula already in place. At the University of Michigan all incoming first-year students are required to take a course, Engineering 100, “Introduction to Engineering,” that integrates many of these skills— design, communication, engineering science and teamwork—in the context of a semester-long project. This course has several sections each semester, each with a different project focus. Some sections of this course go through a complete design/build/test cycle, while others, such as ours, focus more closely on the design process.

Our section, Design: The Next Generation, focuses on the product design process. Students learn about design through redesign of common consumer devices. They undertake a market analysis of the device as part of determining design objectives, undertake experimental studies on the performance of existing products, carry out reverse engineering of two models, and propose a design for the next generation of the device. As part of this experience they become immersed in the design process; design and execute experiments; use basic statistics to analyze the needs of their users and their experimental results; write technical reports and proposals; and prepare and deliver oral presentations. We also focus on the students’ growth as competent team members, with an ongoing peer evaluation process that includes individual or team intervention as needed. In this paper, we provide details on the teaching of our course, and share insights that should help others planning to teach a similar course in the future.

Course overview

The outcomes that all students in the “Introduction to Engineering” course are expected to achieve are outlined in Table 1 and shown in more detail in the Appendix.

It is worth noting that most of these outcomes do not lend themselves well to a purely cognitive approach—that is one that focuses on transferring knowledge from instructor to student. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to specify exactly what the “knowledge” component of design, teamwork or communication should be. Instead, we focus on developing students’ skill and confidence as practitioners in these areas by letting them work through the experience. In some areas our role is as much that of coach as it is subject-area expert.

Montgomery, S., & Johnson, R. (2008, June), Design, The Next Generation: A First Year Course In Product Design Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3933

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