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The Artificial Kidney: Investigating Current Dialysis Methods As A Freshman Design Project

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Design in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1205.1 - 15.1205.15



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Paper Authors

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Noelle Comolli Villanova University

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William Kelly Villanova University

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Qianhong Wu Villanova University

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

The Artificial Kidney: Investigating Current Dialysis Methods as a Freshman Design Project


A new project based freshman engineering course has been developed at Villanova University to introduce students to the different engineering disciplines. The goal of this paper is to evaluate the effectiveness of using an artificial kidney design project in this course. The kidney is the human body’s organ of purification, removing waste from blood on a daily basis. When a person’s kidneys fail it is necessary for them to have outpatient dialysis at a minimum of three days a week to clear the blood of wastes and excess fluids. Students were taught basic biology and engineering principles which they used to design their own filtering device. The effectiveness of this course at introducing freshman students to engineering concepts and retaining their enthusiasm for engineering was evaluated using a pre/post course survey, student quiz performance and final student design reports (both oral and written). Overall, the instructors found the course to be effective at improving student understanding of engineering fundamentals and increasing their enthusiasm for engineering. Recommendations for improvement focus largely on the specific language of the project description that was handed out to the students. Introduction Freshman engineering programs vary greatly at different universities and are constantly a topic of debate for educators seeking to inspire, excite and educate the next generation of engineers. The demand from industry is to provide engineers that are not only technically competent, but that can thrive in a group environment and lead a team to design a better product. The challenge for educators then, is to introduce more design within socially relevant contexts into their curriculum starting at the freshman level without decreasing student retention. The dilemma is in introducing design problems, which are open-ended, with more than one solution, to freshman[1]. Most freshman still learn by acquiring knowledge from the teacher, assuming that all knowledge is a collection of facts that are right or wrong[2]. Therefore asking them to achieve the next leaving of learning that is required of engineering design is not an easy task. Felder and Silverman in their paper “Learning and Teaching Styles in Engineering Education” nicely laid out the need for a teaching style that benefits the majority of engineering students involves some hands-on and reflective activity, not just lecture[3]. Active learning, especially problem based learning, has been shown effective at increasing student interest in courses, and improving their retention of information [1, 3-7]. Problem based learning also can work as an excellent opportunity to teach students the professional skills industry requires of them (teamwork, leadership, effective communication-written and oral)[6]. Taking these studies into consideration, the challenge to create a design experience within the freshman program should be an active, “hands-on”, group effort. Similar freshman project based courses have been attempted and found that projects that included design elements were the most effective at teaching communication and teamwork skills[4]. The new freshman program that was developed at Villanova University desired to upgrade the current problem-based learning strategy by adding more relevant social context to the designs. The new freshman introduction to engineering sequence devised was divided into four sessions over two semesters. Each session was half a semester, with the first being a

Comolli, N., & Kelly, W., & Wu, Q. (2010, June), The Artificial Kidney: Investigating Current Dialysis Methods As A Freshman Design Project Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16031

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