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Designing Senior Design for Student-Led Projects with Large Enrollments

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Division: Capstone Design Practices

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Natascha Trellinger Buswell University of California, Irvine Orcid 16x16

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Natascha Trellinger Buswell is an assistant professor of teaching in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, Irvine. She received her B.S. in aerospace engineering from Syracuse University and her Ph.D. in engineering education from the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is particularly interested in teaching conceptions and methods and graduate level engineering education.

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Mark E. Walter University of California, Irvine

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Dr. Walter received his PhD in Applied Mechanics from Caltech. He spent a year as a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow doing materials science research at the Universitaet Karlsruhe. He joined the Ohio State University in January of 1997 and spent 17 years there running a research group, teaching mechanics and design classes, and advising two US Department of Energy solar decathlon teams. Dr. Walter's research was focused on understanding deformation and failure mechanisms at the micro-scale. In 1998 he received a NSF CAREER award to study thermal barrier coatings and was later active in studying durability of solid oxide fuel cell materials. After one year at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Holzkirchen, Germany, in July of 2015, Dr. Walter joined the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California, Irvine. At UCI Dr. Walter teaches regular MAE classes and helps to manage the senior projects program.

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This paper examines the mechanical engineering senior projects ecosystem at the University of California, Irvine, which has one of the top-20 largest mechanical engineering undergraduate programs in the US. We report on the evolution, changes, and future plans of our senior projects experience. In particular, we describe the historical viewpoint of our design ecosystem and why we believe changes were and still are necessary. Next, we present a literature review that provides an overview of best practices in engineering design education. We then describe the changes that we made which are based in part on the literature and our program’s needs and limitations, and we present the results of two anonymous surveys of our students. After outlining the specific challenges and opportunities in our program, we describe our plans for future data collection and evaluation of our students. This paper would likely interest colleagues at institutions with large numbers of mechanical engineering students, as well as programs that have various student-initiated projects, team-sizes, and faculty involvement in their project ecosystems.

Buswell, N. T., & Walter, M. E. (2019, June), Designing Senior Design for Student-Led Projects with Large Enrollments Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32623

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