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Scaffolding Provided to Engineering Students in Cornerstone Design Project Scenarios Related to Practices of Expert Designers

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Design in Freshman and Sophomore Courses

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1141.1 - 25.1141.15



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Paper Authors


Yosef S. Allam Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach Orcid 16x16

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Yosef Allam is an Assistant Professor in the Freshman Engineering Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He graduated from the Ohio State University with B.S. and M.S. degrees in industrial and systems engineering and a Ph.D. in engineering education. Allam’s interests are in spatial visualization, the use of learning management systems for large-sample educational research studies, curriculum development, and fulfilling the needs of an integrated, multi-disciplinary first-year engineering educational environment through the use of collaborative learning, problem-based and project-based learning, classroom interaction, and multiple representations of concepts.

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Clifford A. Whitfield Ohio State University

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Clifford Whitfield graduated from the Ohio State University with B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. degrees in aerospace engineering and is currently working as a Lecturer-B.E. and a Senior Research Associate for the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and the Engineering Education Innovation Center’s First-year Engineering program at the Ohio State University.

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Jintana Nina Phanthanousy Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

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Nina Phanthanousy is currently pursuing her master's degree in mechanical wngineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She also received her bachelor's of science at ERAU in aerospace engineering, astronautics.

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Scaffolding Provided to Engineering Students in Cornerstone Design Project Scenarios Related to Practices of Expert DesignersFirst-year engineering students involved in design projects, now commonly called "cornerstone"projects, are typically given various forms of scaffolding to support their learning at the post-secondary educational level as they gain the skills necessary to eventually conduct self-directeddesign projects as professionals. The scaffolding may appear to students in the form of aprescribed design process with discrete steps and iteration points; a skeletal project schedulerequiring student project teams to fully populate and expand it; predetermined benchmarking andlab- or library-based investigation and research; partially worked, theoretical, predictivecalculations to complete; kitted, limited equipment, materials, and tooling access; building;testing; instructor-prescribed or fault-driven design revisions, as well as other forced designiterations.The purpose of this study is to investigate the scaffolding described above in terms of how itcompares to the activities, habits, and prescriptions of experienced designers in academia. Thisstudy also seeks to compare the proportion of time spent by first-year engineering students ontypical design process activities and the sufficiency of student-designer iterations versus theimportance placed on equivalent activities by experts. In addition, this study discusses theensuing questions regarding the disparity in time and effort placed by students on certain designprocess activities as compared to the importance of these activities as deemed by the expertdesigners: How do students appropriate their time and efforts in the design process? How isstudent application of the design process related to the scaffolding provided? How do studentdesign activities and the corresponding scaffolding supporting student design compare to thedesired activities, habits, and prescriptions of experienced designers in academia? Whatinconsistencies may there be between the habits of student and professional designers, and whatactions can be taken to address the lessons-learned?In order to assess these objectives, surveys were conducted for both novice (students) and expert(from academia) designers. The student team-based anonymous surveys were conducted on aweekly basis throughout a term-length design for four distinct cornerstone projects, with 18teams on each design project (72 total teams or approximately 288 total students) at [InstitutionName(s)]. Expert designers in academia were each given a single anonymous survey whichqueried the participant on the desired outcomes regarding the specific design activities listed inthe student team-based weekly surveys. These surveys were conducted at [Institution Name(s)].Current research and future extensions of this study will seek to include the design activities ofstudents in senior capstone design projects. The aforementioned questions and considerationsregarding student application of the design process and the scaffolding provided will be madeagain to include these capstone students. The progress post-secondary engineering students makefrom the cornerstone to the capstone level and to what degree design process scaffolding can beremoved or changed will also be investigated. This investigation will include a discussion ofwhere scaffolding should be added to support student progress as their zone of proximaldevelopment extends as students construct their own understandings of the design process withdevelopment and experience. RC DESIGN PROCESS TEMPO 1 0.5 Identify Solution Options 0 1 0.5 Identify Constraints 0 1 0.5 Perform Research 0 1 0.5 Perform Analysis 0 1 0.5 Evaluate Analysis 0 1 0.5 Implement Design Decision 0 1 0.5 Project Management 0 1-2 2-3 3-4 4-5 5-6 6-7 Week of Design Project Week 1: Introduction to Design-Build Project Weeks 8,9,10: Final Design, Design Competition, Design Presentations Figure 1: Example Student Team-Based Time-Normalized Design Process TempoLimited References, arranged alphabetically:Dominick P.G., Demel, J.T., Lawbaugh, W.M., Freuler, R.J., & Kinzel, G. L. (2000). Tools and Tactics of Design. New York: Wiley, John & Sons, Inc.Team-Maker; A Tool for Criterion-Based Team Assignment, www.catme.orgWhitfield, C. A., Freuler, R. J., Allam, Y., & Riter, E. A. (2011). An overview of highly successful first-year engineering cornerstone design projects. International Conference on Engineering Education, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.

Allam, Y. S., & Whitfield, C. A., & Phanthanousy, J. N. (2012, June), Scaffolding Provided to Engineering Students in Cornerstone Design Project Scenarios Related to Practices of Expert Designers Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21898

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: © 2012 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