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Introducing Industrial Systems Engineering to First-Year Students via Mr. Potato Head

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Unique Projects & Pedagogies

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Tyler Milburn Ohio State University Orcid 16x16


Cassie Wallwey Ohio State University

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Cassie Wallwey is currently a Ph.D. student in Ohio State University's Department of Engineering Education. She is Graduate Teaching Associate for the Fundamentals of Engineering Honors program, and a Graduate Research Associate working in the RIME collaborative ( run by Dr. Rachel Kajfez. Her research interests include engineering student motivation and feedback in engineering classrooms. Before enrolling at Ohio State University, Cassie earned her B.S. (2017) and M.S. (2018) in Biomedical Engineering from Wright State University.

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Michael Parke Ohio State University

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Dr. Parke has over twenty years experience in satellite based earth science research. He has been teaching first year engineering for the past nineteen years, with emphasis on computer aided design, computer programming, and project design and documentation.

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This Complete Evidence-based practice paper explores the effect of a first-year engineering lab introducing students to industrial systems engineering (ISE) principles using the Mr. Potato Head toy to engage the students in active learning with a manageable product. One goal of a first-year engineering program is to effectively introduce students to a variety of engineering disciplines so that they can make appropriate choices for their careers at an early stage, but for some disciplines, creating engaging lab experiences can be challenging. This paper introduces the ISE lab presently being used by an honors first-year engineering program at The Ohio State University. The focus of the lab is to introduce the ideas of Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma as well as different manufacturing systems used in industry. The lab was originally created in conjunction with the ISE department for use by the standard first-year program in a two-hour lab session, but the honors first-year program adopted and refined this lab for honors students over the last four years. By utilizing the Mr. Potato Head toy as a product to manufacture, the students can create different variants of the product using basic materials. Students are introduced to an inefficient manufacturing layout and compare manufacturing a small assortment of products using both push and pull sequential manufacturing systems. They then meet as a team and decide how to improve the process, where the inefficient initial process allows for a variety of improvements. The students then try their improved manufacturing process and create a report based on the strengths and weaknesses they observed from all manufacturing processes used.

The Mr. Potato Head toy has the advantages of being readily identifiable, being assembled without tools, and that students enjoying working with it. A variety of products can be produced with a reasonable number of failure modes to be tested by quality control and the customer ordering the product, whose role is filled by a teaching assistant. Students operate in different roles of the production process including the operators who construct the product, transporters who move the product, final testers who check the product, and the engineers who implement changes to the process to improve quality and productivity. Teams are given a cost model including costs for space utilized, worker salaries, work-in-progress, defects, wrong products, and more. A sales price for each product correctly delivered on time is also given. They then complete four product runs and keep track of how well their team performs financially. The first run is a trial run to make sure each student is familiar with the roles and process. The second is a push system, and the third is a pull system. Then the final run is adapted using student refinements to the process lead by the engineers who are tasked with maximizing profit.

This paper briefly describes the development of this lab and provides a synopsis of the instructional materials and implementation of the lab using the Mr. Potato Head toy. Data is provided to illustrate the student experience though this lab experience, and a discussion is presented about the benefits of the lab design for the students and the goals of the lab, as well as student feedback about the lab. The implication of this work is to describe the design and benefits of using this lab for introducing first-year engineering students to ISE principles so that a case is presented for its adoption and adaptation in other first-year engineering programs.

Milburn, T., & Wallwey, C., & Parke, M. (2020, June), Introducing Industrial Systems Engineering to First-Year Students via Mr. Potato Head Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34875

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