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On a Client-Centered, Sophomore Design Course Sequence

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Design in Freshman and Sophomore Courses

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.990.1 - 25.990.15



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Paper Authors


Robert L. Nagel James Madison University

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Robert Nagel is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering at James Madison University. Nagel joined the University after completing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. He has a B.S. from Trine University and a M.S. from Missouri University of Science and Technology, both in mechanical engineering. Nagel has performed research with the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, General Motors Research and Development Center, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. His research interests include understanding customer needs, functional and process modeling, design for sustainability, design for accessibility, and engineering design education.

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Olga Pierrakos James Madison University

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Olga Pierrakos is an Associate Professor and founding faculty member in the School of Engineering, which is graduating its inaugural class May 2012, at James Madison University. Pierrakos holds a B.S. in engineering science and mechanics, an M.S. in engineering mechanics, and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Virginia Tech. Her interests in engineering education research center around recruitment and retention, engineering design instruction and methodology, learning through service (NSF EFELTS project), understanding engineering students through the lens of identity theory (NSF BRIGE grant), advancing problem-based learning methodologies (NSF CCLI grant), assessing student learning, and understanding and integrating complex problem solving in undergraduate engineering education (NSF CAREER grant). Her other research interests lie in cardiovascular fluid mechanics, sustainability, and K-12 engineering outreach.

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Jacquelyn Kay Nagel James Madison University

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Jacquelyn K. Nagel is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering at James Madison University. Nagel has seven years of diversified engineering design experience, both in academia and industry, and has experienced engineering design in a range of contexts, including product design, biomimetic design, electrical and control system design, manufacturing system design, and design for the factory floor. Nagel earned her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Oregon State University and her M.S. and B.S. in manufacturing engineering and electrical engineering, respectively, from the Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly known as University of Missouri, Rolla). Nagel’s long-term goal is to drive engineering innovation by applying her multidisciplinary engineering expertise to design, analysis, instrumentation, and manufacturing challenges.

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Eric C Pappas James Madison University

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Eric Pappas is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering and Department of Integrated Science and Technology at James Madison University. Email:

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On  an  Innovative  Sophomore  Design  Course  Sequence    Often engineering design instruction based on real-world, client-based projects is relegated to afinal year capstone course. Our innovative sophomore design course sequence, however, movesthis experience to the sophomore year to instill in students the importance of the engineeringdesign process. The sophomore design courses (Engineering Design I and II) represent thecornerstone of our six course design sequence. Throughout the project, students interact with areal client to design an actual product; the project for the past two years has been a custom,pedaled vehicle for a client with cerebral palsy. Having a client and working on a tangible, real-world problem helps to motivate the students—including those who tend to not be masterydriven—to learn the design process and complete the project with a working prototype. Otherspecific educational objectives of the sophomore design sequence include: learning to functionas a member of a design team; learning to communicate with team members, clients, and peers;learning engineering professionalism; learning project management stills; and understandinghow engineering science, engineering design, prototyping, and product testing come togetherwhen working to solve real world problems.The Engineering Design I and II course sequence is meant to enable mastery through bothdirected and non-directed learning and exploration of the design process and design tools. At thesophomore level, we aim to provide students with the foundational knowledge necessary totackle problem-based learning modules throughout our engineering program. To that end,students work in both small (4-5) and large (10-11) teams to complete a year-long design project.The course project is woven with instruction in design theory and methodology, sustainableengineering design concepts; individual cognitive processes, thinking, and communication skills;decision making; sustainable (environmental, social, economic, and technical) design practices;problem solving; engineering design software; and project management. Students’ overarchingtask during the first semester is to follow the design process to generate numerous conceptualdesigns viable to meet the specific user needs. During the second semester, students work toreiterate on the conceptual phase of the design process before prototyping, testing, and refining adesign for the client. The project culminates with the students demonstrating their final productto the client, the client’s family, the University, and the local community. Knowing that theywill have this demonstration day truly motivates the students to succeed.Our engineering program is currently in its fourth year, and the sophomore engineering designsequence has been completed twice. In this paper, we will reflect on the lessons learned as wehave taught these two courses. A mixed-methods approach which includes pre- and post-surveyswas used to collect data related to course learning outcomes, project learning outcomes, programlearning outcomes (which map to ABET a-k criteria), student performance evaluations, andproject evaluations. We will present the assessment data we have used to inform our coursesequence iterations but that also demonstrates our success at meeting the course sequenceobjectives.

Nagel, R. L., & Pierrakos, O., & Nagel, J. K., & Pappas, E. C. (2012, June), On a Client-Centered, Sophomore Design Course Sequence Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21747

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