June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Design in Engineering Education
15.586.1 - 15.586.13
First-Year and Capstone Design Projects: Is the Bookend Curriculum Approach Effective for Skill Gain?
Universities and colleges across the country are being challenged to graduate undergraduate engineering students who are technically and professionally proficient. Project-based curriculum reforms have been instituted within several engineering programs in an effort to address this demand. The pedagogical philosophy implemented by several institutions positions project-based courses at the beginning and end of the undergraduate engineering curriculum—creating a bookend curriculum with First-Year Engineering Projects courses and Senior Capstone Design courses. First-Year Engineering Projects courses provide students with hands-on engineering opportunities and introduce students to professional components of an engineering career. Senior Capstone courses also incorporate technical knowledge and real-world problem solving, with an emphasis on professional skills. Yet, an unanswered question remains: is student confidence in professional and technical engineering skills gained and retained when problem-based learning classes are only utilized in the freshman and senior-year year?
This research project longitudinally investigates the technical and professional skill development of mechanical engineering students at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where a bookend project-based curriculum is employed. The paper provides an overview of the First-Year Engineering Projects and the mechanical engineering Senior Capstone Design project course used for this study. Technical and professional skill objectives are also discussed within the paper. Pre and post skill surveys were used to assess First-Year Engineering Projects and the Senior Capstone Design classes. Results from two cohorts—followed longitudinally—indicate that student confidence in skills deteriorates between the end of the first-year and beginning of the senior year in five categories: Engineering as a Career, Engineering Methods, Design, Communication and Teamwork.
At the University of Colorado at Boulder, all mechanical engineering (ME) undergraduates are required to take First-Year Engineering Projects (FYEP) and Senior Capstone Design (SCD) as part of their core curriculum. Both of these courses are project-centered, having a strong technical and professional component. The FYEP course is a single semester hands-on, team- based interdisciplinary design course for entry-level engineering students. Several faculty members from the College of Engineering and Applied Science teach the FYEP course. SCD is a yearlong industry sponsored, hands-on, design course for senior-level mechanical engineering students. The professional skills objectives for both courses include increasing: knowledge of engineering as a career, communication skills and teamwork skills. The technical skill learning objectives emphasize fundamental engineering methodologies and design skills.
Project-based courses are not currently incorporated into the sophomore or junior-level coursework at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Though a project may be supplementary to a course in the sophomore or junior year, the authors do not identify these courses as project- based since the learning is not organized around the project.
Kotys-Schwartz, D., & Knight, D., & Pawlas, G. (2010, June), First Year And Capstone Design Projects: Is The Bookend Curriculum Approach Effective For Skill Gain? Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16995
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