June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Design in Engineering Education
14.2.1 - 14.2.14
“Real Outreach eXperiences In Engineering”: Merging Service- Learning and Design in a First-Year Engineering Course
Abstract The instructors of the first-year engineering course at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are faced each year with the challenge of providing a meaningful, appropriate, and valuable project experience that supports learning and fosters interest about engineering design. While past projects have been suitable for achieving basic learning outcomes, the speculative nature of these projects has not provided opportunities for student learning on broader topics such as working with a customer, identifying customer requirements, framing an open-ended design problem, and most importantly, identifying their role as an engineer in the world at large. In the spring semester of 2008, the instructors of “Exploration of Engineering Design” explored the use of a project set in the context of service learning as a means of achieving these broader learning objectives while still meeting the course learning outcomes for engineering design. The ROXIE Program (an acronym for “Real Outreach eXperiences In Engineering”) was born from this effort.
With the aid of the campus’s Service Learning Center, 179 teams (composed of 4-6 students each) were paired with non-profit community organizations. The student teams acted as “Systems Design Consultants” and were instructed to “serve and improve” the community through engineering design. Specifically, the teams were tasked with (i) performing an act of service for the community organization, (ii) meeting with the community organization’s leader to identify a design problem that needed to be solved, and finally, (iii) proposing a solution to the identified problem by following the design method taught in class.
In this paper, the authors will describe the rationale, pedagogical choices, and administrative tasks involved in providing a design-related service learning experience for first-year students on such a large scale. Excerpts from students’ reflection essays are presented as anecdotal evidence that the proposed program assisted students in achieving the course objectives and learning outcomes.
1. Offering a First Year Engineering Design Experience on a Large Scale
1.1 Context: “Exploration of Engineering Design” The context for this paper is a required introductory course for first-year engineering students of Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is a large mid-Atlantic land-grant university; the engineering college is its largest, and features an undergraduate enrollment of ~6,000 students. The two- credit course, entitled “Exploration of Engineering Design” (ENGE 1114), features an enrollment of over 900 students, is segmented into multiple sections, and is structured around two weekly meetings: one large (~300 seat) one-hour lecture that is orchestrated by the faculty instructors, and one two-hour workshop session (~35 seat) that is monitored by a graduate teaching assistant and typically features hands-on activities.
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