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Draw Bridge Design: An Interdisciplinary, Hands On Project For Freshman Engineering Students

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Design in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.431.1 - 15.431.13



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Paper Authors


Sami Khorbotly Ohio Northern University

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Sami Khorbotly received a Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering from Beirut Arab University in 2001. He then received his Masters and Doctoral degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The University of Akron in years 2003 and 2007 respectively.
He is currently an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. His research interests include real-time implementation of DSP systems. He is a two time recipient of the IEEE real world engineering projects award in recognition of his efforts in developping educational modules for freshman level classes.

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Kenneth Reid Ohio Northern University

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Ken Reid is the Director of Freshman Engineering and an Associate Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Ohio Northern University. He was the seventh person in the U.S. to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. He is active in engineering within K-12, serving on the JETS Board of Directors and 10 years on the IEEE-USA Precollege Education Committee. He co-developed “The Tsunami Model Eliciting Activity” which was awarded Best Middle School Curriculum by the Engineering Education Service Center in 2009. His research interests include success in first-year engineering and engineering in K-12.

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

Draw Bridge Design: An Interdisciplinary, Project-Based Capstone Course for Freshman Engineering Students


Engineering schools have long dealt with issues in recruitment and retention in engineering programs. Retention past the first year of study in engineering is often less than 50%. Efforts to address low retention often include a redesign of the first year of study, with the intent to of introducing engineering design early in the curriculum. Toward this end, Ohio Northern University has developed a year long Freshman Engineering course sequence including the study of engineering design and analysis, technical communication and effective teaming. The course sequence culminates in a one quarter capstone design course. Various iterations of this course have included projects selected by student teams with few given constraints to a single project selected by the instructor with well-defined constraints. In these cases, the selection of the single project becomes most important. The course includes multiple disciplines of engineering, and failing to include one or more disciplines could dissuade students from remaining in engineering. The design of a drawbridge, integrating Civil Engineering (bridge design), Mechanical Engineering (movement of the drawbridge mechanism) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (control and motor circuitry for the bridge mechanism) was assigned as the project in the capstone design class, and subsequently moved to an earlier prerequisite first-year course. This project involved the use of a specific engineering design process, significant hands-on activity as scale models of the drawbridges were built and demonstrated, and incorporation of truly interdisciplinary teams. Student evaluation results showed that the students found the activity stimulated their interest in engineering and encouraged students in independent thinking. This paper will describe the project in detail, allowing those interested in replicating this project to do so. The details will include the bridge specifications and criteria, and results of testing. In order to assess the success of specifying the criteria, basic bridge designs will be presented. Finally, specific student evaluation data and descriptions of successes and future implementation plans from the instructor’s viewpoint will be presented.


Recruiting engineering students has become a major challenge. Recent news about factories moving overseas and the outsourcing of jobs may easily give high school students the perception that our national industries are decaying, which makes the college of engineering a less attractive destination and a career in engineering very unlikely. While recruiting engineering students is no easy task, retaining them is often no easier. Various engineering schools around the country struggle with a retention rate of less than 50% from freshman to sophomore year1. A report issued by the National Academies2 describes undergraduate programs in science and engineering having some of the lowest retention rates among academic disciplines. Students drop out of engineering for multiple reasons. A significant group of students enter engineering with excellent high school academic credentials. Students may enter college with inflated expectations of their expected academic performance. Many students panic and question whether engineering is right for them if and when they receive their first “C”.

Khorbotly, S., & Reid, K. (2010, June), Draw Bridge Design: An Interdisciplinary, Hands On Project For Freshman Engineering Students Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15935

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