June 15, 1997
June 15, 1997
June 18, 1997
2.157.1 - 2.157.10
Documentation of Automation Projects
Jose A. Macedo Texas Tech University
This paper describes a method to teach documentation skills as part of automation design projects. At the beginning of the semester, students are given a simple automated system and assigned the task of improving it in some sense. They are guided through the following steps: generate ideas for improving the existing system, prepare a proposal for approval by the instructor explaining the improvements, plan and execute the approved modifications, and prepare technical documentation. Students work in teams of three to four students. The projects are carried over from year to year. At the beginning of a semester, each team receives all the documentation generated the previous semester. The students understand that the documentation they generate will be useful for other students in the future, therefore they are motivated to produce clear and complete reports. Documents generated include: project proposal, project technical report, user manual to operate the project, poster board, and video tape of final presentation. Results from this laboratory are encouraging. The level of motivation in students is very high, and most of them complete the course with a very good understanding of concepts discussed in class.
Being able to document design projects and communicate results is an important skill for practicing engineers. There are reports in the literature 2, 3 that discuss methods to improve teaching these skills to undergraduate engineering students. Audeen Fentiman 2 indicates that students do not learn much by writing final reports poorly and receiving feedback in the form of instructor comments and a grade. Students can benefit the most by doing it properly. Therefore students should be given the opportunity to correct deficiencies, which requires instructors to plan report deadlines a week or two earlier than normal to allow enough time for grading by the instructor and make corrections by the students. The approach presented in this paper requires students to correct deficiencies in their documentation as shown in the Gantt charts in Figure 1 (activities 13, 14 and 15), and in Figure 2 (activities 13, 14, 15 and 16).
From experience in conducting courses with projects in which students are required to design and build something, students often prepare design documents after the project is built only to satisfy the instructor’s requirements. For example, I recall an instance in which an electrical engineering student avoided preparing a wiring diagram until the device was completely wired. There were several corrections done to the wiring during construction, and the student argument was that he wanted to avoid redoing the diagram after each change. That argument neglets the likely possibility that by using a wiring diagram as a planning and design tool, the corrections made to the wiring could have been avoided. Another example is
Macedo, J. A. (1997, June), Documentation Of Automation Projects Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. https://peer.asee.org/6522
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