New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Design in Engineering Education
Improved Student Engagement through Project-Based Learning in Freshman Engineering Design
The implementation and assessment of Project Based Learning (PBL) in a one credit hour freshman undergraduate course on Engineering Design is described. The overall objective of the instructional modality selected was to improve student engagement and retention at the freshman level by exposing students to a hands-on engineering design experience. In contrast to design courses taken in the final year of study, this course was taken prior to the accumulation of detailed technical knowledge in the student’s engineering discipline. Instructional scaffolding was implemented in course delivery, and included: 1) creating a safe, respectful, collaborative environment for instructor and students; 2) crafting learning goals with the flexibility to ensure they overlapped with the variegated “zones of proximal development” of the freshman student cohort; and 3) gradually tapering instructor involvement from lecturer and frequent collaborator to infrequent guide and troubleshooter as students mastered and applied the skills needed to complete their projects.
To minimize “social loafing,” inter-student collaborations were encouraged through ad-hoc rather than formal groups, and a unique prototype deliverable was required of every student. Access to an in-house 3D printer facility to print prototype hardware was provided in order to give students exposure to mechanical design software, acclimate students to 3D printed product quality, and to facilitate the timely delivery of components at a reasonable cost. Access to a 3D printer facility enabled the completion of approximately 100 unique student projects at the end of the 15 week semester; although use of the 3D printers was not mandatory, almost half of the finished prototypes incorporated 3D printed components. The instructor’s selection of the project was guided by the need to stimulate the interest of students pursuing a variety of engineering disciplines, provide design constraints while encouraging individual creative content in the completed prototype, enable students to complete hardware component designs with easily learned design tools, and allow successful hardware demonstration against a set of design requirements within the time, space, and resource constraints of a one credit hour class.
The course deliverables included: submission of a quad chart containing design objectives, design details, bill of materials and a Gantt chart; completion and demonstration of a working prototype; and an original data sheet describing the features of each unique design. The deliverables were assessed based on completed prototype quality (including an end-of-semester contest to select the top designs by an independent panel of judges), compliance with a subset of the design specifications, total number of prototypes completed, and course evaluations provided by enrolled students. Surprisingly, many students invested considerable time outside of class to complete what were arguably very ambitious designs. The level of personal pride in student prototypes led to a friendly competition to achieve the highest value for one performance metric, with one prototype exceeding the design target by more than a factor of 300. The conditions that led to the students’ self-imposed workload and the exceptional overall student engagement will be presented.
Carpenter, M. S., & Yakymyshyn, C., & Micher, L. E., & Locke, A. (2016, June), Improved Student Engagement through Project-Based Learning in Freshman Engineering Design Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25602
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