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Improving the Student Experience in First Year Engineering Design Courses

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2017 FYEE Conference


Daytona Beach, Florida

Publication Date

August 6, 2017

Start Date

August 6, 2017

End Date

August 8, 2017

Conference Session

Engineering Education Research - Focus on Engineering Design

Tagged Topic

FYEE Division - Paper Submission

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Paper Authors


James R McCusker PhD Wentworth Institute of Technology

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James R. McCusker is an Associate Professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Since joining Wentworth in 2010, he has been heavily involved with an array of interdisciplinary design courses that range from introductory to capstone courses.

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Aaron Carpenter Wentworth Institute of Technology

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Professor Carpenter is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at Wentworth Institute of Technology. In 2012, he completed his PhD at the University of Rochester in the field of computer architecture. His research interests focus on computer engineering, computer architecture, digital systems, cybersecurity, and engineering education.

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Julian Sosnik PhD Wentworth Institute of Technology

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First Year Design courses are commonplace in many engineering curriculums.  Although the focus of these courses typically revolves around introducing students to various multistep design processes as well as improving student skills in written and oral communication techniques; they can be limited in replicating the experience of working in a real world interdisciplinary design environment. In an industrial setting, design teams are comprised of members that have the complementary skills that are necessary to complete the relevant task. There are many tools, like CATME, available to replicate this process of designing student teams based on complementary skills. Prior studies have illustrated that, although assigned teams can improve the experience for some, it can also drastically diminish the student experience for others. This work focuses on the assignment of student design teams based on both complementary skills as well as shared interests.

As part of the common first year engineering curriculum at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, Ma, students participate on the Introduction to Engineering Design course. This work studies two years-worth of data on the impact of assigned groups in these courses, as they pertain to overall student experience. For this, various sections of the course adopted one of the following structures for group assignments: 1) student selected, 2) skills-based instructor assigned, 3) skills and student interest based instructor assigned. Written feedback and peer assessment, based on ABET Outcome D: Ability to function in multidisciplinary teams, were collected from the students. Our analysis focuses on the process of intelligently assigning student groups and the techniques that can improve the overall student experience. The authors hope to engage in a spirited discussion on the merits of assigned student design teams as well as propose an alternative approach for instructors planning to engage students in interdisciplinary project based courses.

McCusker, J. R., & Carpenter, A., & Sosnik, J. (2017, August), Improving the Student Experience in First Year Engineering Design Courses Paper presented at 2017 FYEE Conference, Daytona Beach, Florida.

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