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Experiences in Teaching Writing Unit Design Courses to Engineering Students with Advanced Rube Goldberg Projects

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Writing and Communication I

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Emre Selvi Jacksonville University

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Emre Selvi is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Jacksonville University. He received his B.S. and M.S. from Middle East Technical University and Ph.D. from Texas Tech University. He worked as a Design and Production Engineer for Aselsan Inc. for four years and as a Faculty at Muskingum University for six years. His research interests are high pressure material science and engineering design, especially as it relate to educational environments.

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Sandra Soto-Cabán Muskingum University

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Dr. Sandra Soto-Cabán received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering from University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus, and her Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Currently, she is Associate Professor of Engineering in the Department of Physics and Engineering at Muskingum University, New Concord, OH. Dr. Soto-Cabán is a Senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and member of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). She is also member of the engineering honor societies Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu. Her research interests include electromagnetic simulation of underground contaminants, material characterization, and engineering education.

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Teaching design and communication skills to engineering students is always a challenging and evolving process. Many design courses compromise a project in order to provide students a hands-on experience to address different aspects of design. Project selection is very important to motivate and encourage creativity in the students. It also alters the teaching efficiency significantly.

Principles of Design course has been taught as a part of Engineering Science curriculum at a private Liberal Arts University since 2010. It gives engineering science students the opportunity to work on several of the steps in the engineering design process: formulation of a problem, creative approaches to solving the problem, analysis, materials selection, and economics. This course is also a Writing Unit course, where formal writing is a substantial mode of learning. Authors of this paper were co-instructors of the course and assigned different projects to the students during the first four offerings, every year improving the projects according to the observations and student feedback to better address the course’s learning objectives. In spring 2013, the assigned project was the design and implementation of a Rube Goldberg machine. Based on student outcomes and course evaluations, it was decided to repeat the same concept with some technical modifications to make the Rube Goldberg machine more advanced and challenging for junior level engineering students. This paper presents the assigned Rube Goldberg projects, writing unit requirement of the course, teaching method, and an analysis of the effectiveness of the different project assignments over different offerings. Course outcomes and assessment results of the different projects are also discussed.

Selvi, E., & Soto-Cabán, S. (2016, June), Experiences in Teaching Writing Unit Design Courses to Engineering Students with Advanced Rube Goldberg Projects Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26815

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