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Engineering Problem Solving Design Project: Emergency/Homeless Shelter Design

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

First-Year Design Experiences

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.555.1 - 10.555.9



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Paper Authors

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Tonya Peeples

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Julie Jessop

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

Engineering Problem Solving Design Project: Emergency/Homeless Shelter Design Julie L. P. Jessop, Tonya L. Peeples The University of Iowa


The Emergency/Homeless Shelter Design Project was developed for “Engineering Problem Solving I”, a freshman engineering course, based on an exercise presented in Engineering Your Future: A Project-Based Introduction to Engineering. The purpose of the project is to encourage students to apply their design skills to serve society. Students are challenged to design a cardboard structure to keep people warm in cold weather, which will be warmed with sunlight and body heat. Classroom activities that help the teams in studying the issues of housing design include a guest lecture by the CEO of PEER Consultants, P.C. (an international civil and environmental engineering consultancy), brainstorming sessions to generate ideas for the design, a virtual building assignment using Energy-10 software to evaluate the energy efficiency of a variety of building materials, and lectures on oral and written communications of technical material. Teams of four first-year students write a proposal for the design of a low-cost shelter and then build and test a prototype of the structure using a basic kit provided to them. The designs are demonstrated during the final week of classes in a poster session where students, faculty and staff are invited to view the shelters and technical posters describing the designs and testing results.

Course History

The current version of “Engineering Problem Solving I” (EPSI) was first delivered three years ago and is a required core course for incoming College of Engineering students.1 This 3-credit course consists both of a lecture and a faculty-directed project component, each having equal student contact (1.5 hours). The lecture meets twice weekly with each of the four 100-student sections for 11 weeks (22 meetings). One faculty member is responsible for the lecture component of the course. Twelve project sections each meet over the course of the entire semester. Six faculty members are assigned two coordinated sections. Each single 32-student section can meet individually for one hour per week, as well as an additional hour jointly with the other section taught by the same instructor.

The general philosophy of this course is to use it as a vehicle to introduce the student to a structured engineering design problem-solving paradigm and common elements. As such, one objective is to provide students with a “road map” on how engineers typically go about solving problems, an idea of what specific skills may be important and why, and a realization of what typically characterizes and differentiates engineering from other disciplines. Lecture problems focus on application of skills by individual students as applied to problem “analysis”, skills typically incorporated in one or more of the design process steps. Topics covered in the lecture

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Peeples, T., & Jessop, J. (2005, June), Engineering Problem Solving Design Project: Emergency/Homeless Shelter Design Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15182

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