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Project Based Teaching Of Engineering Design

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Capstone Design II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.987.1 - 14.987.13



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Paper Authors

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Joseph Hitt United States Military Academy

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Daisie Boettner United States Military Academy

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Stephen Suhr United States Military Academy

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Joel Dillon United States Military Academy

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

Project Based Teaching of Engineering Design


As a result of major revisions to the mechanical engineering design curriculum, the United States Military Academy (USMA) has offered the new course, Mechanical Engineering Design, since 2006. This paper describes the evolution of this course and its associated annual course assessments. In addition, conclusions are provided about the efficacy of those changes. In the initial offering of the course, students were assigned to their senior capstone project teams and the formal capstone projects. Based on both student and instructor assessments from the initial offering, the course was revised to teach the design process in the context of two simple projects (design a portable illumination device and design a device to store a West Point class ring) followed by the senior capstone project. The illumination device project served as an in-class example throughout formal instruction and the ring storage device project provided context for individual out-of-class work (homework, prototype fabrication, and final project report). Upon completion of the ring storage device project, students began their one and one-half term capstone design projects. Course revisions from the initial offering to the second offering have been reported previously in the literature. This paper briefly summarizes those earlier changes and describes revisions incorporated in the latest offering as a result of student and faculty feedback from the second offering. Recent changes include expanding the open-endedness of the in-class project and revising the timing of and expectations for the individual project. In its third offering the course effectively introduced topics in such a manner to encourage individual proficiency of design concepts before proceeding to the team-based capstone projects. Course feedback and subsequent analyses provide insight to the effectiveness of these evolutionary changes to the course, Mechanical Engineering Design. Faculty teaching engineering design in disciplines other than mechanical engineering can apply the underlying strategy to motivate student learning used in Mechanical Engineering Design.


Most mechanical engineering curricula include an opportunity to design and build a product as part of a capstone design experience. As reported by Larson and Keat1, 93% of mechanical engineering programs surveyed include a capstone design course while 91% of programs require students to build a working prototype. The mechanical engineering program at the United States Military Academy is one such program that affords both design and prototyping experiences as part of the capstone project.

Before attempting a capstone design project, students must learn the formal design process to guide their efforts. To introduce the formal design process, mechanical engineering programs typically employ one of two strategies: teaching the design process as a separate course2-7 or integrating formal design process instruction with the capstone project8-11. The USMA mechanical engineering program has employed both strategies as its formal design process instruction has evolved into its current form.

Hitt, J., & Boettner, D., & Suhr, S., & Dillon, J. (2009, June), Project Based Teaching Of Engineering Design Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5532

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015