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Sprints Vs. Marathons: Two Potential Structures For Assigning Engineering Design Projects

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.505.1 - 3.505.9

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Paper Authors

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Paul D. Schreuders

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Arthur T. Johnson

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

Session 1608

Session 1608

Sprints vs. Marathons: Two Potential Structures for Assigning Engineering Design Projects.

Paul D. Schreuders, Arthur T. Johnson University of Maryland, College Park


While a major goal of an engineering education is the preparation of students for solving “real world” problems, actually assigning these problems is rarely possible in a teaching environment. A number of different strategies exist for structuring student projects, so that they prepare the students for the work environment. We will compare the benefits and the costs of two of these strategies for structuring student projects. Both methods are currently employed in the Biological Resources Engineering Department at the University of Maryland. Furthermore, both strategies, described below, have their strengths and weaknesses.

In the first, more common, structure, students are assigned group projects that last the entire semester. The time available allows the assignment of complex and relatively unbounded projects, and the students can be exposed to the entire process of project development. However, because of the duration of the project, only a single iteration of this process is possible. Furthermore, in practice, the majority of the project tends to be performed in a short period of time, just prior to the due date.

An alternate strategy is to assign a number of short projects throughout the semester. In this approach, three high intensity, short duration projects are assigned. The students must build expertise in an area in a matter of only a few days, requiring them to develop both research and time management skills. In addition, because multiple projects are assigned, projects may be assigned in different disciplines and the students have several opportunities to correct their mistakes and polish their report writing skills. However, because of their short duration the projects must be somewhat limited in scope. Furthermore, because of the short duration of the projects, the students become completely immersed in their projects, to the exclusion of their other classwork.


Biological resources engineering is a response to the need that exists for engineers with dual expertise in engineering and biological systems. Biological engineers apply engineering principles, analysis, and design to a diverse range of problems, including aquacultural engineering, biomedical engineering, biotechnology, environmental and ecological engineering, food engineering, and water resources engineering. This diversity of application requires breadth of education. The Department of Biological Resources Engineering at the University of Maryland has developed a curriculum that is both broad and fundamental. All of our students acquire skills in mathematics, biology, chemistry, microbiology, and cell biology. These skills

Schreuders, P. D., & Johnson, A. T. (1998, June), Sprints Vs. Marathons: Two Potential Structures For Assigning Engineering Design Projects Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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