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Enabling Hands-On, Team-based Project work during COVID-19

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2021 First-Year Engineering Experience



Publication Date

August 9, 2021

Start Date

August 9, 2021

End Date

August 21, 2021

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Brian Dick P.Eng. Vancouver Island University

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Brian Dick is Chair of the Department of Physics, Engineering, and Astronomy at Vancouver Island University, and instructs its first-year engineering design curriculum. He is past-chair of the BC Council on Admissions and Transfer (BCCAT) Engineering Articulation Committee, and led development of the common first-year engineering curriculum recently implemented in British Columbia.

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COVID-19 has impacted delivery of the first-year engineering design curriculum throughout the post-secondary system. At [Redacted], instruction of the first-year curriculum has been shifted to an entirely remote learning environment, where students were not expected to be in physical contact at any point during the term. This presented a significant challenge to deliver its learning outcomes and activities, particularly hands-on, team-based project work.

At [Institution redacted], students typically complete a cornerstone design project in the second term of their first-year of studies. Due to COVID-19, this project was modified to allow for completion within a virtual learning environment. Teams of three or four students were tasked to cooperatively create a rolling ball structure, built in isolation, but delivered and assembled at the University campus by the course instructor and its technician. This structure was required to form a path for a rolling ball, and interact with its neighbouring structures to create seamless track. Collectively, all team structures (a total of ten) formed a ring allowing for continuous ball movement once started. These pass-off points for the ball were determined collaboratively between both teams and individuals.

The design-build project had four phases:

Phase 1 (Concept Sketch) - Students worked individually and independently to create designs responding the problem statement, and evaluate their pros and cons.

Phase 2 (Design Proposal) - Teams combined individual concept sketches into a combined structure, broken into three or four modules (one of which each team member would be responsible for constructing). Teams negotiated with their neighbours to inform their final design, and developed a project proposal including a scope, time, and cost baseline. Self and peer reviews were undertaken.

Phase 3 (Progress Report) - Student constructed one of the modules within their team structure. Changes to the structure design were required to be submitted by the team collectively, and approved by the instructor through a formal change request, providing details on how that change would impact scope, schedule, budget, and (potentially) the neighbouring teams. A progress report was produced at this stage. Self and peer reviews were undertaken.

Phase 4 (Final Report) - Each student delivered their module to the University campus. Teams provided suitable instructions for the instructor and technician to combine the structures within a set period of time. A final report on the team project was produced including a virtual class and community presentation. Self and team reflections were completed.

This paper describes the how a team-based cornerstone project experience was managed, and its impact on the student experience.

Dick, B. (2021, August), Enabling Hands-On, Team-based Project work during COVID-19 Paper presented at 2021 First-Year Engineering Experience, Virtual .

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