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Engaging Clients in ECE Seminar Course via Clinical Consulting

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Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference



Publication Date

April 9, 2021

Start Date

April 9, 2021

End Date

April 10, 2021

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Peter Mark Jansson Bucknell University

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Professor Jansson is currently Faculty Director for the Center for Sustainability and the Environment as well as an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Bucknell University where he is responsible for pedagogy and research in the power systems, smart grid and analog systems areas. His specialties include grid interconnection of large scale renewable power systems, Mach Effect detection and smart grid virtual storage via thermal inertia of buildings. He has previously worked for over a decade at Rowan University in their ECE department and in the power and consulting industries for over 3 decades.

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During Autumn semester 2020 an innovation was trialed in the ECE Seminar course to enable senior ECE students to gain skills in effective consulting by using their ECE skills to help meet a real-world client’s technical needs. This assignment was incorporated into the seminar as either a 20-hour or 40-hour project depending upon how many modules of the course the student was otherwise engaged with. The Action Technologies® workflow model was used assuring the customer’s conditions of satisfaction would be met. This allowed students to learn the four key steps of: preparation, negotiation, performance and acceptance. The 14 ECE seniors involved in this pilot chose from nearly 20 available projects and got to decide which projects would best apply their skillsets as electrical or computer engineering majors. Projects ranged from printed circuit board designs for a mission control panel for a local children’s museum to developing/running a virtual poster session platform for the University’s annual River Symposium. In each instance, the senior ECE consultant was charged with meeting with their clients to identify their needs and then negotiate a reasonable scope of work (given the 20/40 hour engineering time constraint). After agreeing on project scope they were charged with creating a project plan, list of deliverables/milestones and a Gantt chart schedule. Clients ranged from professors and staff of the university to community partners. It was an important aspect of the project that students would begin to take stock of what their personal engineering skills were and to determine how they could best apply them to help clients better understand their technical needs and jointly develop potential paths forward to satisfy those real-world needs. On a fortnightly basis through the semester, each senior consultant would provide their peers with a brief status update of where they were in the process of developing the solution to the problem/need they were satisfying and how their actual time on each task compared/contrasted with their initial estimates. All seniors were able to see the breadth and depth of their peer’s engagement with the consulting opportunities during these sessions and offer input if they had ideas. The majority of the consulting engagements resulted in very successful projects completed within the time constraint and with high satisfaction reported by the clients. The students themselves demonstrated they were capable of accomplishing significant impact in the ½ week or 1 week effort. Their ability to manage such a short term project effectively clearly showed them that their engineering skills can provide high value in serving the world’s needs.

Jansson, P. M. (2021, April), Engaging Clients in ECE Seminar Course via Clinical Consulting Paper presented at Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference, Virtual . 10.18260/1-2--36299

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