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Teaching Design Skills In The Freshman Engineering Curriculum

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.411.1 - 1.411.6



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Paper Authors

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M. Nabil Kallas

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Dhushy Sathianathan

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Renata Engel

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

Session 2553

Teaching Design Skills in the Freshman Engineering Curriculum

M. Nabil Kallas, Renata Engel, and Dhushy Sathianathan Division of Engineering Design and Graphics The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802

With the mission of introducing engineering early in the undergraduate curriculum, the freshman engineering course has developed the following goals: (1) Introduce an engineering approach for problem- solving through team projects; (2) Demonstrate the importance of graphical, oral, and written communication skills; (3) Incorporate the skill oriented tusks, such as analysis and interpretation of experimental dat+ into design projects. Essential skills taught in the freshman engineering course are: graphical presentation including sketching and solid modeling, use of engineering principles with physics and math for analysis, construction and testing of working prototypes, and documentation of the solution. Students are also instructed on how to manage their projects and work in teams.

This paper discusses the challenges and opportunities that are involved in instituting a design-driven freshman curriculum at a large university. The paper will discuss issues related to design curriculum development, type and ingredients of a team design project, laboratory preparations, and cost and benefits of implementing the design activities. Although our efforts are ongoing, significant gains have been achieved that are worth sharing with the engineering education community.


In order to implement a design curriculum at the first-year level in engineering, several f~ctors must be considered: the student level of prerequisite knowledge of engineering concepts, the breadth of engineering topics to be covered, and the format for presentation of the design. Lack of certain prerequisite knowledge of engineering concepts can be the biggest stumbling block; however if the design includes an application of physics principles or relies on the mathematics that is most commonly encountered in the freshman year, then the design serves the dual purpose of integrating the math and science into the engineering curriculum. Engineering design rarely focuses on one discipline, but is rather a combination of mechanical, electrical, industrial, etc. engineering. A key fictor when introducing design at the freshman level is to include these realistic situations and illustrate the inter-disciplinary nature of design from the beginning. Additionally, the format of design must be considered from both instructor presentation and student deliverables. Oral, graphical and written communication are important in conveying design; therefore, instruction in all areas should be included in the course. While having a design described entirely on paper is possible, other alternatives exist: prototype development and a complete working model. The decision as to which is appropriate for a specific curriculum depends on human and financial resources as well as the time available for the uctivity.

At Penn State, the total enrollment of incoming engineering freshmen (in 18 campuses) exceeds 1000 students per semester. All engineering students are required to take the introductory course, ‘Engineering Design and Graphics.’ This is a 3 credit course with 6 contact hours per week. The class size is maintained at 32 students per section, and 14 to 15 sections are offered per semester at the main campus.

{hx~~ 1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings ‘..+,~ylm.:

Kallas, M. N., & Sathianathan, D., & Engel, R. (1996, June), Teaching Design Skills In The Freshman Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6316

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