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Project-Based Learning and Design Experiences in Introduction to Engineering Courses: Assessing an Incremental Introduction of Engineering Skills

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

The Best of Design in Engineering

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1189.1 - 22.1189.37



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Paper Authors


Andrew L. Gerhart Lawrence Technological University

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Andrew Gerhart, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Lawrence Technological University. He is actively involved in ASEE, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Engineering Society of Detroit. He serves as Faculty Advisor for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Student Chapter at LTU, chair for the LTU Leadership Curriculum Committee, director of the LTU Thermal Science Laboratory, coordinator of the Certificate in Energy & Environmental Management and Certificate/Minor in Aeronautical Engineering, and faculty advisor of the LTU SAE Aero Design Team.

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Robert W. Fletcher Lawrence Technological University

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Robert W. Fletcher joined the faculty of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Lawrence Technological University in the summer of 2003, after several years of continuous industrial research, product development and manufacturing experience.

Dr. Fletcher earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Washington, in Seattle, Washington, a Master of Engineering in Manufacturing Systems from Lawrence Technological University, in Southfield, Michigan, and the Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in Chemical Engineering focusing on Electrochemical Engineering, both from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.

He teaches a number of alternative energy courses and is leading LTU's efforts to establish a full energy engineering program that addresses both alternative and renewable energy systems, as well as energy conservation and optimization of traditional energy systems. He also is the Director of the Alternative Energy program at Lawrence Tech.

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Project-Based Learning and Design Experiences in Introduction to Engineering Courses – Assessing an Incremental Introduction of Engineering SkillsAbstractProject-based learning (PBL) can be particularly effective for first-year engineering students inintroduction to engineering courses. Because PBL can be an exciting and engaging educationalexperience if implemented correctly, its use is crucial in the first year of an engineeringcurriculum that is otherwise filled with non-engineering-specific courses. Students in LawrenceTechnological University’s Introduction to Engineering course complete seven design projectswhich not only introduce some technical engineering content, but also introduce the engineeringdesign process and other engineering skills.In past offerings of the course, while completing the first few projects, students typically skippedthe essential initial steps in the engineering design process even after hearing an entire lecture onthe importance of following the process and being instructed to follow the steps on theassignment directions. Therefore, this paper first explains and provides evidence how theproject-based learning method was used for the first two projects in the course to emphasize andenforce the use of initial steps in the engineering design process.Next, an explanation is presented on how the series of seven design/build/test projects were usedto incrementally introduce concepts/skills that the students will need to use throughout theirengineering education and as future practicing engineers. The intension is to progressively buildtheir repertoire of skills with each subsequent project emphasizing a newly introduced skill.Some skills included are the use of the engineering design process, effective teamwork, oral andwritten communication, using the computer as an engineering tool, and multi-componentfabrication and processes. The final comprehensive project requires the use of all of thesecritical skills for successful completion. An assessment has been performed to measure how thestudents skill usage is changing throughout their project work. Student perceptions of theimportance and/or practice of each skill were measured through questionnaires following thecompletion of each project. Therefore the progressive assessment allows for tracking the shift inperceptions of the importance placed upon and use of the skills. In addition, the perceivedimportance and subsequent use of each particular step of the engineering design process wasmeasured for each student from the first to the final project of the course. Again, the shift inperceived use of process steps was tracked. Finally, specific skills and specific steps within theengineering design process from select design projects were directly assessed using rubrics bythe course instructor for comparison to student perceptions. Analysis of these assessment datarevealed some expected trends in student practice of the engineering skills, however, a fewunexpected results indicate modifications in subsequent offerings of the course may be required.

Gerhart, A. L., & Fletcher, R. W. (2011, June), Project-Based Learning and Design Experiences in Introduction to Engineering Courses: Assessing an Incremental Introduction of Engineering Skills Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18463

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