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Exploring The Value Of Design And Build Experiences For Undergraduate Engineering Students

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Early Engineering Design Experiences

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.566.1 - 15.566.16



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Paper Authors

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Robert Prins James Madison University

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Eric Pappas James Madison University

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

Exploring the Value of Design and Build Experiences for Undergraduate Engineering Students

I. Introduction

In August 2008, James Madison University (JMU), traditionally known as a liberal arts university, enrolled its first engineering students into a unique engineering product and process design and build program focused on sustainable design. A noteworthy component of this integrated design and build program is the six-semester 10-credit design studio sequence that stretches from the sophomore year to graduation, and includes significant project work. The design and build component of the program is introduced in our Freshman Introductory course (Engineering 112). We present a divergence from the generally accepted approach to sustainability (normally referred to as “sustainable engineering” or “environmental sustainability”) and include instruction in creating sustainable societies.

Design instruction in our undergraduate studio design sequence spans freshman through senior years and focuses on sustainability in four contexts: environmental, socio-cultural, economic, and technical. Students learn to design (and re-design) for sustainability in all contexts and are required to build (or model) their designs. Throughout the program, students are required to design or re-design products and processes that are subject to sustainability criteria we developed for student projects. In addition to design instruction and practice, students receive group and individual instruction in the use of hand and machine tools. (e.g. drills, band saw, lathe).

Our approach to teaching design includes instruction in critical thinking practices—the intentional and directed cognitive processes and habits that foster effective thinking. This approach includes projects that require students to physically construct their designs as part of the design iteration process. Our assertion is that critical thinking in combination with hands-on project experience inspires better design.

This paper describes the second of three stages of initial research into instruction in tool use, cognition, and design: an almost entirely undocumented area of engineering research. “Tool use” in this context refers to hand and machine tools as may be found in a typical shop. Our results are general but encouraging, and research continues each semester. Our targeted third stage will be under way in spring 2010 and will be presented in an upcoming paper.

This effort is funded by National Science Foundation IEECI Grant #10-00017 and National Science Foundation CCLI Grant # 0837465.

II. Literature Review

There is very little in the formal engineering literature addressing cognitive process development related to hand or machine tool use. Much of the research on tool use, design, and cognition is found in the psychology and education literature. Cognition and tool use research in engineering, outside of using computers as cognitive tools,1,2 is a largely unexplored area; however, some authors provide research into the nature of tool-use

Prins, R., & Pappas, E. (2010, June), Exploring The Value Of Design And Build Experiences For Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15921

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