July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Design in Engineering Education
The essence of prototyping is problem solving through the creation of physical or digital artifacts. Engineers prototype to communicate creative ideas, explore design alternatives, evolve the details of a solution, and achieve functional design solutions. The process of prototyping exists on a spectrum of scope (whole solution versus sub-function of solution) and complexity (simple tools and materials versus manufacturing tools and materials). Deep expertise with prototyping as a method of problem solving is acquired over years of study, practice, and repetition on machines and software packages. Unfortunately, students are expected to produce physical prototypes without the luxury of dedicated training in this skill as this often competes with other prime time course content. There exists a need to upskill engineering students to a point where they can gain momentum on physical and digital prototypes using their own trial-and-error processes.
Prototyping education is completed through a number of avenues in academic makerspaces, including informal workshops, independent self-directed learning, and formal courses. This paper details over five years of results from a course that teaches skills in prototyping and fabrication for the goal of increasing student confidence in producing high resolution prototypes. This course includes modules that teach students the following techniques: how to build a box (3 ways), post-processing and finishing (surface modification: grind, sand, eg; surface treatment: paint, powder coat, eg), 2D drawing (digital), vector based cutting (laser, plasma, water jet, vinyl), and the use of multiple toolchains/processes to produce objects. The course has been designed to be high touch and simulate apprenticeship with an expert. All aspects of the course involve active learning and regular hands-on workshops enhance the experience for students by making the experience practical instead of didactic. Grading is proficiency based so students have standards of excellence to work towards. Students peer grade each other which helps them to develop a critical eye for high quality work as well as to articulate (and receive) feedback about work products. Students detail all of their work through a publicly viewable blog that showcases their process, decisions, failures, and triumphs. Through surveys and analysis of work product we evaluated the learning outcomes of the course; students increased in their proficiency of each of the techniques and tools that were instructed. Additionally, students reflected an increase in confidence as evidenced through their personal statements of each of the documents about their homework.
Wettergreen, M., & Brandel, J. (2021, July), Student Skills Growth in a Prototyping and Fabrication Course: Increase in Operation and Technique-based Knowledge as a Result of an Apprenticeship Model Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37761
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