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Student Directed, Project Based Learning In An Integrated Course Block

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Crossing the Discipline Divide!

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1153.1 - 10.1153.14



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Paper Authors

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Steven Krumholz

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Robert Martello

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Jonathan Stolk

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

Student-Directed, Project-Based Learning in an Integrated Course Block Jonathan Stolk, Robert Martello, and Steven Krumholz Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering Needham, MA 02492

Abstract Imagine a course block in which students discuss the cultural implications of 17th century iron working in North America in one hour, and design experiments to examine connections between composition and strength in modern steel padlocks immediately afterward. In the Paul Revere: Tough as Nails course block, students don’t just study materials science and history of technology topics … they experience them. Through a series of readings, discussions, and self- designed projects, students explore materials science concepts alongside the social, cultural, and environmental factors that shaped technological and scientific history. Although some formal in- class activities are planned, many class sessions are flexible, allowing students to engage in individualized learning approaches. The projects are loosely framed, enabling students to develop key competencies while investigating topics of personal interest and controlling project focus and direction. In this paper, we discuss the processes and motivating factors that led to the initial design and continued development of the Paul Revere: Tough as Nails course block. We describe the philosophical and practical benefits of the course, and we elucidate the important role the course plays in our engineering curriculum.


In the fall of 2003, two faculty members at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering began teaching a new course offering, titled Paul Revere: Tough as Nails. Referred to as a “course block” due to the fact that it was twice the size of a typical undergraduate course, Paul Revere: Tough as Nails attempted to accomplish several key learning objectives:

• Teach students to pose questions and solve materials science and historical problems in an interdisciplinary manner, using the content, methods, and perspectives of both fields to achieve a greater contextual and qualitative understanding of common topics. • Encourage students to control their own learning process in a self-directed manner and develop “lifelong learning” skills in the process. • Use projects as a primary pedagogical mechanism, encouraging a hands-on experiential understanding of content and methods as well as expertise in the conceptualization, design, and implementation of a project.

This paper will describe the execution of different incarnations of this course in more detail, with particular emphasis upon project implementation and pedagogical goals. The effectiveness of this activity will be assessed via a study of student and faculty feedback. Our story begins on the Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Krumholz, S., & Martello, R., & Stolk, J. (2005, June), Student Directed, Project Based Learning In An Integrated Course Block Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14675

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: © 2005 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