Asee peer logo

Prototyping a prototype-based project with minimal equipment requirements

Download Paper |


2019 FYEE Conference


Penn State University , Pennsylvania

Publication Date

July 28, 2019

Start Date

July 28, 2019

End Date

July 30, 2019

Conference Session

M2A: Learning By Design 1

Tagged Topic

FYEE Conference - Paper Submission

Page Count


Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Charlotte de Vries Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

visit author page

Dr. Charlotte de Vries is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State Erie, the Behrend College. She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 2009. She received her M.S. (2013) and Ph.D. (2014) in Mechanical Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. She teaches Introduction to Engineering Design, Dynamics, System Dynamics, and Instrumentation, Measurement, and Statistics.

visit author page


Qi Dunsworth Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

visit author page

Qi Dunsworth is the Director of Center for Teaching Initiatives at Penn State Erie, the Behrend College. She holds a master's degree in Communication Studies and a Ph.D. in Educational Technology. At Behrend she supports faculty in classroom teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning. She has created a series of faculty teaching workshops and is the recipient of several grants for course revision, educational research, and professional development.

visit author page


Dean Q. Lewis Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

visit author page

Dean Lewis is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Mechanical Engineering in the School of Engineering at Penn State Erie, the Behrend College. He has taught various courses and labs in solid mechanics for undergraduate students as well as the introductory engineering design course for freshmen and the capstone design course for seniors.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This full paper describes the design, implementation, and reception of a prototype-based design project for first-year engineering students in an introductory course. This project was introduced in a course that previously lacked any physical design elements due to the limited access to prototyping equipment. Prior student projects were limited to design and computer modeling and simulation elements only, with hands-on activities restricted to measurement-based labs. The new project incorporated concept development by the students along with physical prototyping of their design using and a combination of reusable components and disposable inexpensive supplies. The project was created based on research findings on the effectiveness of experiential learning, particularly hands-on and project-based learning.

The new project consisted of a line-following robot using Arduino kits and a custom made chassis designed by the students. The students needed to assemble the components, calibrate the sensors, update and install the code, and design and build the chassis for the robot. The students were encouraged to minimize their design according to cost, weight, and time required for the robot to navigate along a course. The open-ended nature of the project allowed for students to optimize the code, improve the aesthetics of their design, or change up the circuitry of the robot in order to have the best performance. Students in the honors sections of the course were able to produce 3D printed parts for their robot chassis, while students in the standard sections used beta prototyping to make their chassis out of low fidelity materials, such as cardboard, popsicle sticks, duct tape, and glue.

At this point in time the project is in its third semester of implementation. Over 300 students and 12 separate faculty members have undertaken this project. Students were surveyed to see the short-term impact of the project on student learning, and eventually the long term impact on student retention. The students who have opted in to the study will be tracked to see the effect of this project on student retention rates compared to engineering students who participated in the previous computer-only design projects in this course.

This paper describes the project in detail, the results of student surveys and impact the project had on students and faculty reception. Suggestions for how similar projects can be implemented at other schools are shared.

de Vries, C., & Dunsworth, Q., & Lewis, D. Q. (2019, July), Prototyping a prototype-based project with minimal equipment requirements Paper presented at 2019 FYEE Conference , Penn State University , Pennsylvania.

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: © 2019 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