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Engineering Design Instruction Using Slack for Project Support and Teamwork

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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


Jonathan Elliot Gaines University of South Florida

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Jonathan E. Gaines is faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of South Florida. He is the Director of First Year Experiential Education and Learning. Through this position, he develops and implements the curriculum for USF's Foundations of Engineering Lab course. He is also the Principle Investigator for Bulls Engineering Youth Experience (Bulls-EYE Mentoring) a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math based outreach program that uses undergraduate students to mentor middle school youth.

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Olukemi Akintewe University of South Florida

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Dr. Olukemi Akintewe is an instructor in the Department of Medical Engineering. She received a B.E. degree in chemical engineering from City College of New York, CUNY, a M.Sc in materials science & engineering from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida. Dr. Akintewe has focused her research in service-learning in engineering education; engineering predictive assessment models that supports students’ learning, classroom management techniques and best teaching practices.

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Schinnel Kylan Small University of South Florida

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Schinnel Small is an Instructor I and IT Director at the University of South Florida. She pursued a Bachelor-to-Doctorate path of study at Morgan State University and obtained her Bachelor of Science and Doctorate degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2004 and 2010 respectively. She currently teaches Introductory Programming and Engineering courses for the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. As an IT coordinator, she assists the department with IT curriculum and course development, as well as advising for IT students. Her research interests include programming languages and visual analytics.

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Terreonn Henry

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This Design Methodologies paper presents the design process and technology used to facilitate a first-year, service-learning based engineering design course at a large research university. The course is facilitated using a cloud-based collaboration tool called Slack which allows individuals to be organized and assigned to channels for easy dissemination of information. The nature of the Slack channels offered to students evolves throughout the semester to mirror the current needs of the design process. This paper presents the strategy used to leverage Slack and administer the design process in support of service-learning when logistical challenges and consistency are a primary concern.

Students begin the semester in the individual design phase and self-select into one of six project choices. In the individual design phase, they are offered Slack channels that help them understand the problem, learn foundational skills, and familiarize themselves with the course. After developing their ideas as an individual, private Slack channels are then provided that organize them into design teams for the group design phase. Using their group channel, students can ask for help from student assistants, share their design content and ideas easily, and collaborate, using the chat feature and apps that support connectivity. Once students complete the group design phase, they transition into the group fabrication phase and self-assign into roles. Public Slack channels are then provided that give the students support in their roles. Because the project choices are open ended and ill-posed, Slack also provides an opportunity to support the process of creative thinking which can be stressful for first-year students by providing them with consistent project support, clarification, and encouragement.

For this course, consistency of support was a main motivating factor for using Slack. Project choices are offered across 12 different sections taught by eight different faculty members. Slack allows for support to be centralized and managed towards a consistent design experience for all students. Service-learning also plays a part in the organization of the course into phases with community partner driven design reviews helping propel the students from one phase to the next. The course leverages Slack and its design phases to provide a structure that promotes collaboration and teamwork.

Strategies for engineering design instruction that leverage technology in useful ways are useful for practitioners. This paper provides the general structure of the course and its use of Slack so similar tools might be used at other institutions in support of engineering design instruction. In addition, large universities often face logistical challenges in the facilitation of substantial design experiences. The paper provides a strategy for how a phased approach might be administered. A similar approach might be necessary if a larger school seeks to provide project support to students but possesses limited resources.

Gaines, J. E., & Akintewe, O., & Small, S. K., & Henry, T. (2019, June), Engineering Design Instruction Using Slack for Project Support and Teamwork Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32721

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