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Short, Hands On Team Design Projects In A Freshman Engineering Physics Class

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Design in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1063.1 - 15.1063.11



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Paper Authors

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Richard Bennett University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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Will Schleter University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Short, Hands-On Team Design Projects in a Freshman Engineering Physics Class Introduction

One of the challenges of a first year engineering course that integrates traditional physics content with an introduction to engineering design is the development of suitable design projects. An ideal project is one that is challenging, fun, requires teamwork, associated with the physics material being studied, low cost, and doable in a limited amount of time. This paper describes several design projects that have been created for use in a freshman engineering physics class that meet these criteria. Various techniques related to team selection, encouraging teamwork, incorporation of physics topics, keeping costs down, project results presentations, and gathering feedback from students are also presented.

At the end of each semester of the two-semester course sequence, there is a longer, more traditional team design project that lasts several weeks. We have found, though, that using short, single-period, team projects throughout the semester has several advantages. These include: Students are forced to build their teamwork skills as the projects cannot be completed in the allotted time without working together. It is impossible for one person to do it all and carry the rest of the team. Students get the opportunity to work with different team members, as teams can be reorganized for each project. Many different physics topics can be incorporated into team projects throughout the two- semester course sequence. The projects each have an element of fun, which keeps the class exciting and students interested and motivated in the course. By conducting the team projects during class recitation time, graduate students can be used to facilitate, guide, and coach the teams. The graduate students help with teamwork skills by helping to keep the teams organized, on task, and working efficiently. This model is also useful for physics instruction, as the graduate assistants roam among the teams informally asking leading questions, and providing answers and explanations of various concepts at the point in time in which the student’s interest is at its highest.

The pedagogy behind the team projects is similar to that of project-centered learning (Sheppard et al., 2009). The objectives of these projects are similar – to have students develop teamwork skills, and to teach students basic physics and engineering design concepts in a complementary format to the traditional lecture. The projects are slightly longer, but similar in concept and objectives to the hands-on experiences at Virginia Tech (Goff and Connor, 2001), but do not span several weeks, as other freshman projects do (e.g. Ohio State, 2009).

Bennett, R., & Schleter, W. (2010, June), Short, Hands On Team Design Projects In A Freshman Engineering Physics Class Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16287

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