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K'nex Project Management Exercise: Demonstrating The Importance Of Communication

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Teaching Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.775.1 - 7.775.10



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Paper Authors

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Eric Lachance

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Ronald Welch

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

Main Menu Session 2125

K’NEX PROJECT MANAGEMENT EXERCISE: Demonstrating the Importance of Communication

ERIC M. LACHANCE, RONALD W. WELCH United States Military Academy

ABSTRACT A challenge for most young engineers is the ability to communicate a design, research results or new ideas in a clear concise manner. One technique used at the United States Military Academy (USMA) to demonstrate the importance of communication is the K’NEX Project Management Exercise. The single day exercise navigates students through the entire design process and requires little student preparation. This paper lays out the conduct of the exercise, the results from the exercise as an event at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Regional Student Conference and an assessment of the exercise by faculty and students. The feedback shows that an exercise of this nature impresses upon the students the importance of communication in everything they do, especially in their current coursework. The predominant student and faculty recommendation is to use this or a similar type of exercise to not only demonstrate the importance of communication but to provide an excellent model for teaching and assessing the ABET communication skills objective.

I. INTRODUCTION The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how successful role-playing exercises can be in teaching young engineers the importance of communication within the engineering profession. Many engineering scholars and senior managers continue to struggle with the newly trained engineer’s inability to communicate effectively research results or a design. Whether this problem stems from simply poor communication skills or the lack of engineering instruction that requires extensive use of communication skills, the engineering education community must develop procedures that improve student communication skills to better serve our client’s needs. The primary method of developing engineering communication skills is through design problems. However, design problems are usually evaluated more on the technical aspects of problem solving rather than design communication. As a response to this issue, some engineering programs are adding English professors as adjunct professors to assess/improve student communication skills. One unique technique used at the United States Military Academy (USMA) to demonstrate the importance of communication during an entire project is the K’NEX Project Management Exercise. The entire exercise is built around the standard project design process (see Figure 1: Phases of Project Design1) with the students focusing on the four primary areas of the process: Design, Contractor Bid, Construction and Load Testing. An additional area added to the process is student self-assessment of their execution of each phase of the project and the overall project. The following sections focus on the conduct of the exercise and highlight the impact the exercise had on a group of civil engineering students. The presented exercise was validated during the 2001 Upstate New York American Society of Civil Engineer (ASCE) Student

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Lachance, E., & Welch, R. (2002, June), K'nex Project Management Exercise: Demonstrating The Importance Of Communication Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10203

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