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Quickly Building Students’ Confidence in their Fabrication Abilities

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Hands-on/Experiential Learning

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1016.1 - 23.1016.17



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Paper Authors


Daniela Faas Harvard University

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Daniela Faas is currently the senior preceptor in design-based instruction at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Harvard University. She is also a research affiliate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. Daniela received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Human-Computer Interaction from Iowa State University, and her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA.

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Daniel D. Frey Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Professor Dan Frey is a researcher in robust design and design pedagogy. He has focused on developing adaptive approaches to robust design. When these methods are coupled with informed engineering choices, they offer significant advantages over current methods used in industry. Professor Frey is a Principal Investigator of the SUTD- MIT International Design Centre (IDC), a unique, interdisciplinary design effort that has sites at MIT and in Singapore.

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Quickly Building Students’ Confidence in their Fabrication AbilitiesUndergraduate mechanical engineering education usually places a high priority on designexperience. Such courses serve to enhance student interest in engineering, improve retention,and improve results in later courses. A challenge to implementing early design experiences inengineering programs is the readiness of the student population for hands-on design work. Oneof the main obstacles the students face is the lack of fabrication experience. This typically leadsstudents to begin work too late. This has been referred to as “time scallop”- as deadlines areapproached, effort levels rise rapidly and fall back to low levels repeatedly. A problemmotivating this paper is that students seemed hesitant to use machine tools despite previousintroductory training including mills, lathes, saws, sheet metal cutting and bending. In thiscourse, each student is expected to conceive, design, build, and operate a robot to carry out aspecified set of tasks. This paper describes an activity that allows students to quickly build andtest a robot within a 3-hour time frame. This robot, called “Mini-Me” serves most students as astarting point to build a more complex machine later on. Surveys indicate the activity buildsstudents’ confidence in their fabrication skills and that the gains are largest for female students.This work shows the benefit of giving students smaller subtasks to reduce anxiety about nothaving adequate skills to design and build a robot. This activity has enabled students to extractkey concepts and the students felt more confident that they could complete a more complexrobot. Overall, student’s self-reported knowledge of servos, motors and using manufacturingequipment increased based on survey results. The activity described in this paper has had a largeimpact on overall manufacturing confidence and course outcome for students.

Faas, D., & Frey, D. D. (2013, June), Quickly Building Students’ Confidence in their Fabrication Abilities Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22401

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