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Self-Directed Summer Design Experience Across Disciplines and the Globe

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

International Division Technical Session 1

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Page Numbers

26.1362.1 - 26.1362.12



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Paper Authors


Christopher Joseph Lombardo Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

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Dr. Christopher Lombardo is an Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies and Lecturer at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Dr. Lombardo received Bachelor of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics from the University of Maryland at College Park and a Master of Science and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Electrical Engineering from the The University of Texas at Austin. Outside of the classroom, Dr. Lombardo facilitates international engineering programs at SEAS and is currently the faculty advisor for the Harvard University chapter of Engineering Without Borders - USA.

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Daniela Faas Harvard University

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Dr. Faas is currently the Senior Preceptor in Design 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. Dr. Faas was the Shapiro Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT from July 2010 to July 2012. She received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Human Computer Interaction at Iowa State University under Prof. Judy M. Vance in 2010. Her research developed a methodology to support low clearance immersive, intuitive manual assembly while using low-cost desktop-based Virtual Reality systems with haptic force-feedback. My method combined voxel-based collision detection and boundary representation to support both force feedback and geometric constraint recognition.

Research interests: virtual reality (VR) applications in mechanical design, design methodology and engineering education.

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Avinash Uttamchandani Harvard SEAS


Evelyn Lynn Hu SEAS Harvard

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Evelyn Hu is the Tarr-Coyne Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering in Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). She was formerly Professor in the Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Materials at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a position she held from 1984-2008. From 2000 – 2009 she served as the scientific co-director of the California NanoSystems Institute, a joint initiative at UCSB and the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to that, Dr. Hu worked at AT& T Bell Laboratories, after receiving a Ph.D. in Physics from Columbia University.

Her research has matched nanofabrication techniques with the integration of materials that allow the formation of structures and devices that demonstrate exceptional electronic and photonic behavior, allowing efficient, controlled and often coherent output of devices. She has participated in and directed a large set of educational experiences for high school, undergraduate, community college and graduate students.

She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, The American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Academica Sinica of Taiwan and JASON, a recipient of an NSF Distinguished Teaching Fellow award, an AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award, a Fellow of the IEEE, APS, and the AAAS, and holds honorary Doctorates from the University of Glasgow, an Heriot Watt University, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Notre Dame University. She has co-founded two companies, Cambrios and Siluria, with Professor Angela Belcher.

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Self­Directed Summer Design Experience Across Disciplines and the Globe  Prefered Session Topics (or similar):  ● Integration of International Programs in the Engineering Curriculum  ● Experiential and Project Based Learning in Engineering Program Overseas  ● Preparing engineering students for international practice  During  the  summer  of  2014,  the  Harvard  School  of  Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Hong  Kong  University  of  Science  and  Technology  (HKUST)  initiated  a  multidisciplinary  international design  experience  for  the  benefit of the student populations of both institutions. The goal of this program was  the  create  an  international  multidisciplinary  team­based  research  and  design  project  that  included exposure  to  the  academic  and  industrial  environments  in  both  Hong  Kong  as well as the United States, specifically  the  Boston  area.  The  Harvard­HKUST  International  Summer  Design   Experience  occurred completely  outside  of  any  classroom  setting during nine weeks and was co­located in Boston and Hong Kong  for  4  weeks  each.   The  objective  for  this  program  to  be  in both Hong Kong and Cambridge was to  give  the  students  a  chance  to  work  in  each  other's  home  areas,  culturally,  geographically  and  with respect  to  disciplinary  expertise.  The pedagogical approach was unique as that there was no embedded curriculum  and  students  were  able  to  freely  pursue  a  project  in  a  given   topic  area  that  they  were interested  in.  The   major  topic  for  this  summer  was  Visible  Light  Communication  systems  (VLC): these are  light­based  communication  systems  that  take  advantage  of  recent  advances  in  solid  state  lighting sources  that  can  be  rapidly  modulated.  These  communications  approaches  are  not  unlike  infrared communications  and  ‘wifi’, but leverage the growing presence of solid state  lighting, with greater present flexibility in the portion of the spectrum accessible for communications.   Students  were  tasked  to research the problem, learn from experts in the field, generate possible solution paths,  brainstorm  multiple  embodiments  of  a  design,  build,  test,  refine  and  present  in  a  period  of  9 weeks  time.  The  students  were  not  exposed  to  VLC  concepts  prior  to  this  experience  and  most students  did  not  have  any  prior  design   experience  besides  introductory  engineering   classes.  At  the  end of  9  weeks,  both  groups  presented  to  members  of  the  SEAS  and  HKUST  communities.  Figure  1 shows the final prototypes of the students’ designs.  In  this  paper  we  present  the general pedagogical approach to this experience and provide some insights and  examples  of  the  effect  the  program  is  having  on  students.  Beyond  immersing  the  students  in engineering  design,  the  goal of this experience was to learn how to carry out a project and to participate in  design  teams  where  perhaps  approaches  and  views  (and  cultures)  might   be  different.  The  authors conducted  a  survey   about  students’  interest  in  pursuing  graduate  school  and  how  their  design self­efficacy  changed  throughout  the  experience.  Nine  weeks  may  not  give  students  enough  time  to effect  changes  in  their  outlook,  growth  in  understanding  of  different  thought  processes,  or  approaches and  habits  [1]  ­  but  part  of  the   'design'  of  this  program  was  to  capture  those  elements  as  much  as possible. Figure 1 shows the final prototypes of the students’ designs.     Figure  1:  a)  Miner  Location  Tracking  via  VLC  (left)  and,  b)  Door  Security  using  Mobile Phones and VLC (right).  Photo Credit: Eliza Grennell (left) and Tian Zhang (right)  References [1]  Dym,  CL  ,  AM  Agogino,  O  Eris,  DD  Frey,  and  LJ  Leifer.  "Engineering  Design  Thinking, Teaching, and Learning." Journal of Engineering Education 94, no. 1 (2005): 103­20.  

Lombardo, C. J., & Faas, D., & Uttamchandani, A., & Hu, E. L. (2015, June), Self-Directed Summer Design Experience Across Disciplines and the Globe Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24699

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