New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation
With technological advances, newer generations of students are exposed to computational tools that lead to more accurate results and the old-fashioned art of Estimation is often being overlooked. While in many cases accuracy is imperative, there are frequent instances when “back of envelop calculations” or rough estimation will suffice. Oftentimes, after calculations are made with the assistance of technology, students fail to question if their computations or simulation results actually make sense. This “lost art of estimation” can lead to precise calculations that are completely irrelevant. In engineering this could lead to design flaws and unsafe outcomes.
The goal of this paper is to briefly re-introduce the “Art of Estimation” in engineering. This is evident when dealing with entrepreneurial thinking where projections and estimations need to be quickly calculated and frequently modified as necessary. This paper shares research work that incorporates multiple, example-based estimation methodologies that are useful in engineering. The methods provide rough predictions of expected outcome, allowing students to “intelligently guess” a reasonable range of expected outcomes, given some basic raw data and parameters. The methods include:
• Segmentation • Fermi Estimation • Rules of Thumb • The 80/20 Rule • Visual Method • Upper and Lower Limit Estimations
For each method the authors introduce a brief history, a short explanation, as well as suggest how and when to use each method. Also included are classical examples and practice problems to reinforce students’ knowledge.
In order to assess the validity of the proposed approach, a recent presentation about estimation methods followed by a detailed questionnaire was presented to students in a “Fundamentals of Engineering” class that comprised of freshman students resulting in 63 responses that are very favorable. Summary of results on a scale of “1” to “5”, “5” being strongly agree, “3” neutral, and “1” strongly disagree. The overall average response was 4.13. This indicates that students preferred learning the presented estimations methods using an innovative and visual approach. Based on the additional questions, it turns out that students prefer to be taught, to learn visually and intuitively, to use PowerPoint and instructor notes and not rely on teaching themselves.
Raviv, D., & Harris, A. J. (2016, June), Estimation as an Essential Skill in Entrepreneurial Thinking Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26739
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