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First Year Design Experience: Assembling The “Big Picture” Through Innovative Product Design

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Early Engineering Design Experiences

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.633.1 - 14.633.15



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Paper Authors

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Kelly Crittenden Louisiana Tech University Orcid 16x16

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David Hall Louisiana Tech University

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Mark Barker Louisiana Tech University

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Patricia Brackin Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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

First-Year Design Experience: Assembling the “Big Picture” Through Innovative Product Design Abstract

As part of the freshmen engineering curriculum at Louisiana Tech University, students develop novel solutions to problems that “bug” them. During the spring quarter, students are asked to spend several weeks compiling bug lists – noting products or situations that they think could be improved. The students form teams and decide on which of their bugs they want to address. A creative problem solving approach is demonstrated to the students who generate and evaluate concepts for their solution. The teams then construct increasingly refined prototypes of their new product idea. Serving as the culmination of the experience, a Freshman Design Exposition is held in which the general public, other students, and judges view and provide feedback to the students’ inventions. During the following academic year, the best projects are asked to enter their designs in an Idea Pitch competition which leads to the Top Dawg business plan competition where their ideas can be more formally explored.

This paper will discuss our process for Freshman Design, how it fits into the rest of our freshman curriculum, and how this project addresses the NAE’s Engineer of 2020 report. Specifics include: developing the bug list, incorporating the IDEO design process, appreciation of different personality types, brainstorming, engineering decision making, design journals, and prototyping. Additionally, qualitative and quantitative data from the first two Freshman Design Expositions will be presented along with data on the effectiveness of the multidisciplinary nature of the student teams.

Background and Context

In engineering education, a consensus is forming that passive, lecture-based instruction should be replaced or supplemented by active, integrated, project-based learning.1 In the United States, the movement toward project-based freshman engineering curricula began in the 1990s due in large part to the National Science Foundation Engineering Education Coalitions.2-5 This movement towards hands-on freshman engineering programs with a significant design component continues today at universities across the United States.6-8 A vast body of literature on the subject clearly shows the benefits of incorporating project-based instruction with design early and often.

There is no one-size-fits-all freshman engineering design experience. These experiences range from nothing at all, to product dissections, to team-based competitions, to open-ended “product” design, and a host of other approaches. Several papers have attempted to describe and categorize freshmen engineering design experiences in the United States.2, 9 It is not the intention of this paper to describe the multitudes of programs and their various merits and difficulties. This paper aims to describe an approach to an open-ended product design at the freshman level.

At Louisiana Tech University, we began our own engineering curriculum reform in 1995. We created an Integrated Engineering Curriculum (IEC) in an attempt to provide a hands-on, active- learning environment for our freshmen and sophomore engineering students and with support from NSF fully implemented this new curriculum in 1997.10 The program was successful in

Crittenden, K., & Hall, D., & Barker, M., & Brackin, P. (2009, June), First Year Design Experience: Assembling The “Big Picture” Through Innovative Product Design Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5334

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