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The Development of Engineering Project Curricula that Emphasize Design Cycles

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

ECCD Innovative Teaching Methods & Outreach

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1515.1 - 26.1515.9



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Paper Authors


Nicole Zimmerman Portland State University

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Nicole Zimmerman is an MS candidate in the Electrical & Computer Engineering department at Portland State University. She has worked as a research and teaching assistant in the Power Engineering Education Lab since her final year as an undergraduate at PSU. Nicole has contributed to several projects during that time, including analyses of natural ester oils as replacements for mineral oil in transformers and an HVDC feasibility study. Her thesis work employs VHDL-AMS in order to create generalized models of electric vehicle charging circuits for use in a tool designed to aid distribution engineers in planning electric vehicle charging installations.

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Timothy D. Gulzow Portland State University

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Tim is seeking a bachelors degree in electrical engineering and is a research assistant in the PGE Foundation Power Engineering Education Laboratory at Portland State University.

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Robert B Bass Portland State University Orcid 16x16

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Robert Bass, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Portland State University. His research focuses on electrical power systems, particularly distributed utility assets and the overlaying control and communications architectures that link them together. Dr. Bass specializes in teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on electric power, electromechanical energy conversion, distributed energy resources, control theory and power systems analysis.

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The Development of Engineering Project Curricula that Emphasize Design CyclesIn order to adequately prepare students for careers in engineering, their skill sets need to be developed well beyondthe traditional methods typically presented in engineering courses. As recognized by ABET EC2000, design is afundamental learning outcome all engineering students should be familiar with. The engineering design cycle is aprocess whereby engineers use a sequence of design reviews in order to iterate towards a feasible engineeringsolution. Mastery of this technique is achieved through repeated practical application. This paper will describe thedevelopment and execution of engineering design cycle curricula for undergraduate engineering courses.This paper will desicribe the motivation, design and implementation of several 300-level project assignments thatfeature design cycles. A term-long project for an undergraduate power systems rotating machinery course has beenimplemented. This assignment requires students to design, build, troubleshoot and demonstrate a three-phase motorsoft-start control system. This design project requires students apply and physically demonstrate the concepts beingpresented in the course lecture. More importantly though, the project runs students through a design cycle process.Student design groups are guided through the design process by a series of milestones, and their work is red-lined(reviewed) on a regular basis. Beginning with a set of specifications, students advance through a process ofaddressing milestones, or revisit an old ones, in order to eventually design, build and demonstrate the projectaccording to those specifications. These steps include iterations through ladder logic designs, application of codesand standards, bills of materials development, and electrical panel and plan view CAD layouts. Feedback is providedregularly such that student groups may correct errors and improve their designs within a timely manner. Studentsdemonstrate their completed projects, including a verbal explanation of the project design, to the course instructor inorder to assess their mastery of the learning outcomes established for the assignment.Term-long design cycle projects are also being designed for a three-phase power systems project and for a feedback& controls theory course, all of which involve PLC-based control systems. Each of these laboratory assignmentsprovides the students with hands-on learning experiences where, through an iterative process, they explore theengineering design cycle. Ultimately, there will be three engineering design cycle projects that the students willcomplete during their junior year. These experiences will give students opportunities to become familiar with theengineering design cycle and to develop some meaningful design skills before they graduate, thereby reinforcing thecourse outcomes pertaining to engineering design, modern engineering tools and modern engineering techniques. 1

Zimmerman, N., & Gulzow, T. D., & Bass, R. B. (2015, June), The Development of Engineering Project Curricula that Emphasize Design Cycles Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24853

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