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Partnering with Occupational Therapists for First-Year Design Projects

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2019 FYEE Conference


Penn State University , Pennsylvania

Publication Date

July 28, 2019

Start Date

July 28, 2019

End Date

July 30, 2019

Conference Session

M2B: Learning in teams

Tagged Topic

FYEE Conference - Paper Submission

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Paper Authors


Todd France Ohio Northern University

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Todd France is the director of Ohio Northern University's Engineering Education program, which strives to prepare engineering educators for the 7-12 grade levels. Dr. France is also heavily involved in developing and facilitating the Introduction to Engineering course sequence at ONU. He earned his PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder where his research focused on pre-engineering education and project-based learning.

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J. Blake Hylton Ohio Northern University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Hylton is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Coordinator of the First-Year Engineering experience for the T.J. Smull College of Engineering at Ohio Northern University. He previously completed his graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, where he conducted research in both the School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Engineering Education. Prior to Purdue, he completed his undergraduate work at the University of Tulsa, also in Mechanical Engineering. He currently teaches first-year engineering courses as well as various courses in Mechanical Engineering, primarily in the mechanics area. His pedagogical research areas include standards-based assessment and curriculum design, including the incorporation of entrepreneurial thinking into the engineering curriculum and especially as pertains to First-Year Engineering.

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Lauren H. Logan Ohio Northern University Orcid 16x16

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Lauren H. Logan is an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Ohio Northern University. Her research focuses on quantifying the impacts of thermal pollution from thermoelectric-power-plant water use on aquatic ecosystems. She earned her Ph.D. from the Energy-Water-Environment Sustainability program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Lauren is active in Tau Beta Pi as a District 7 Director, and the Sustainability Committee of the Environmental and Water Resources Institute (EWRI) through the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). She is passionate about the recruitment and retention of under-represented minorities into engineering programs, particularly through unique and cross-disciplinary engagement.

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This full paper presents findings from a pilot project initiated in a multidisciplinary, team-based first-year engineering course. The course, focused on the design process and technical skill building (e.g., CAD, Excel, prototyping), is structured to support student teams as they pursue unique solutions to identified needs in a given hypothetical context. In spring 2018, an alternative project was offered in two of five course sections that partnered student teams with a school whose mission is to support those with developmental disabilities. Specifically, the project “client” was an occupational therapist at the school; her primary needs were tools designed to foster her students’ fine motor development by means of manipulative devices.

After having been facilitated for two semesters as an EPICS (Engineering Projects In Community Service) elective course, this project was incorporated into the first-year sequence to engage students with real, local societal problems earlier in their undergraduate studies. The project focuses on human-centered design, allowing students to be creative in their solutions while compelling them to remain cognizant of the specific needs of the intended users (in this case, primarily pre-K to 5th graders). Both individual responsibility and team interdependence have been noted as strengths of the project, key learning outcomes that are often lacking in team-based projects.

Both survey and interview data from the pilot project’s participants (12 students in total), along with comparative data from other first-year students in the course, will be collected. Analysis will include a mixed methods approach to highlight key project benefits and drawbacks, and will focus on answering the following research questions: - How did the occupational therapy project impact students’ motivations? - How has the occupational therapy project shaped the way students’ view the engineering profession?

This paper is intended to offer well-informed insights for those interested in running similar service-learning projects.

France, T., & Hylton, J. B., & Logan, L. H. (2019, July), Partnering with Occupational Therapists for First-Year Design Projects Paper presented at 2019 FYEE Conference , Penn State University , Pennsylvania.

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