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Improving Design Competency in Introductory Engineering Courses within a General Education Requirement

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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

Pedagogies of Making and Design

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Christopher Lombardo Harvard University

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Dr. Christopher Lombardo is an Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies and Lecturer at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Dr. Lombardo received Bachelor of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics from the University of Maryland at College Park and a Master of Science and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Electrical Engineering from the The University of Texas at Austin. Outside of the classroom, Dr. Lombardo facilitates international engineering programs at SEAS and is currently the faculty advisor for the Harvard University chapter of Engineering Without Borders - USA.

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Daniela Faas Harvard University

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Dr. Faas is currently the Senior Preceptor in Design Instruction at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Harvard University. She is also a research affiliate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. Dr. Faas was the Shapiro Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT from July 2010 to July 2012. She received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Human Computer Interaction at Iowa State University under Prof. Judy M. Vance in 2010. Her research developed a methodology to support low clearance immersive, intuitive manual assembly while using low-cost desktop-based Virtual Reality systems with haptic force-feedback.
Research interests: virtual reality (VR) applications in mechanical design, design methodology and engineering education.

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Avinash Uttamchandani Harvard University

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This study discusses design competencies in several introductory engineering courses at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences within the general education program as well as required introductory courses for electrical and mechanical engineering majors. Each of these courses has a final team project, with varying degrees of open-endedness, in lieu of a traditional exam. Design competencies were measured in these courses, both pre- and post-experience, using self-reported surveys as well as instructor assessment of ABET learning outcomes. The post-experience surveys as well as final project rubrics were used to measure changes in design competencies as well as changes in self-efficacy. There was a correlation between the changes of self-efficacy and ABET outcomes at the end of the courses for both major-specific and general education courses. Students in the general education course scored lower in final self-efficacy compared to their peers in the major-specific courses but there may be a trade-off between making engineering material more accessible to general education requirements as compared to the depth covered in major-specific courses. This paper shows that encouraging and motivating students to study engineering does not necessarily have to be distinct from teaching them technical design or engineering skills. Learning outcomes in hands-on design courses are a critical component to student engagement and retention within engineering and the liberal arts. All of the courses discussed within this paper play important but different roles within the engineering curriculum at Harvard.

Lombardo, C., & Faas, D., & Uttamchandani, A. (2016, June), Improving Design Competency in Introductory Engineering Courses within a General Education Requirement Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25611

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