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Sustainable Development Design Projects For Engineering Freshmen

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Design for Community and Environment

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1182.1 - 11.1182.11



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Paper Authors

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Odis Griffin Virginia Tech

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Vinod Lohani Virginia Tech

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Jennifer Mullin Virginia Tech

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Jenny Lo Virginia Tech

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

Sustainable Development Design Project for Engineering Freshmen

Abstract: This paper outlines the sustainable development design project created by a team of graduate students and professors for 1,200 first semester freshmen engineering students in the fall 2005 semester. Student teams were presented with a five week long design assignment which focused on low tech solutions for a developing community. All teams were given a set of appropriate construction materials. The project required the students to complete a series of assignments which reflected significant stages in the engineering design process, and culminated in the “Sustainable Development Design Fair” where one team from each of the forty-one workshop sections competed for one of three awards decided by a panel of faculty judges. Supplemental educational material was also presented in the lecture and workshop sessions to aid the students through this assignment. Results of the project are discussed and include a focus group interview and online surveys conducted to assess the effectiveness of this new approach of introducing design in the early part of engineering curriculum.

1.0 Introduction

A new department of engineering education (EngE) was created at Virginia Tech in May 2004 to improve engineering pedagogy within the college of engineering and to create collaboration between engineering and education faculty within and outside the university to develop an active research program in engineering education. The EngE department offers the General Engineering (GE) program for engineering freshmen. In September 2004, a NSF funded a department-level reform (DLR) project that was developed by a number of EngE faculty in collaboration with faculty from other engineering departments, particularly the Biological Systems Engineering (BSE), and the School of Education. The goal of this DLR project is to reform the GE program within EngE and the bioprocess engineering option within the BSE using a theme based spiral curriculum approach. The twentieth century psychologist, Jerome Bruner, proposed the concept of the spiral curriculum. Bruner advocates that a curriculum as it develops should revisit the basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them [1]. In the proposed reformulation, a theme of sustainability has been selected to provide a contextual framework.

The GE program in the EngE department mainly includes two freshman level introductory engineering courses. The first one is called “Engineering Exploration ENGE1024” and is taken by approximately 1,200 engineering freshmen in fall semester each year. A number of changes have been introduced in this course in recent years with the objective of introducing early design experiences. Until fall 2005, this was accomplished by assigning 2 -3 design projects, during the semester, typically involving some “analysis” but mainly a “build” component. Students were typically given a detailed problem statement with well-defined goal. For the “build” assignment, student teams (4-5 students per team) were given a set of materials in the form of a “MacGyver Box.” These boxes contained a variety of common materials and tools such as plastic tubing, wooden paint stirrers, string, wire, hobby motors, batteries, clothes pins, plastic wheels, a hammer, and a screw driver. While students enjoyed their MacGyver experiences, it was felt that as part of their freshman year experiences engineering freshmen should be exposed to design experiences that also address the social relevance of engineering. It was also acknowledged that

Griffin, O., & Lohani, V., & Mullin, J., & Lo, J. (2006, June), Sustainable Development Design Projects For Engineering Freshmen Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--556

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