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The Engineering Design Process: An Assessment Of Student Perceptions And Learning At The Freshman Level

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Design in Freshman and Sophomore Courses

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1213.1 - 14.1213.15



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Paper Authors


Thomas Schubert University of San Diego

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Thomas F. Schubert, Jr. received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of California, Irvine, Irvine CA in 1968, 1969 and 1972 respectively.
He is currently a Professor of electrical engineering at the University of San Diego, San Diego, CA and came there as a founding member of the engineering faculty in 1987. He previously served on the electrical engineering faculty at the University of Portland, Portland OR and Portland State University, Portland OR and on the engineering staff at Hughes Aircraft Company, Los Angeles, CA.
Prof. Schubert is a member of IEEE and ASEE and is a registered professional engineer in Oregon. He currently serves as the faculty advisor for the Kappa Eta chapter of Eta Kappa Nu at the University of San Diego.

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Frank Jacobitz University of San Diego

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Ernest Kim University of San Diego

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

The Engineering Design Process: An Assessment of Student Perceptions and Learning at the Freshmen Level Abstract

An investigation into the impact of a simple team design experience in teaching the engineering design process is described. The design experience occurred early in an Introduction to Engineering course after a single lecture on the engineering design process. The design activity, necessarily simple at this stage, consisted of designing, building, and testing a drag racer, constructed from LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT parts and powered by a single rubber band. Assessment of the value of the experience focused not only on gains in student perceptions of knowledge of and confidence in applying the engineering design process, but also on actual gains in knowledge, as judged by written responses, and on the use of the engineering design process, as judged by student design step logs.

Student learning was assessed through questionnaires at the beginning and end of the laboratory period. The questionnaires addressed both student knowledge and student confidence levels. In addition to assigning numerical values (on a scale from 1 to 5) to their perception of knowledge about and confidence in applying the design process, students responded to the knowledge questions with short, written statements. These statements were then scored by the investigation team and the resultant scores compared with the students’ perceptions of knowledge. The assessment data showed a significant overall increase of both student perception of knowledge (from an overall average of 2.28 to 3.06) and confidence scores (from an overall average of 3.09 to 3.66) as well as significant individual incremental increases. The assessment of student knowledge as evaluated by the investigation team showed a somewhat smaller, but still significant, increase (from an overall average of 2.35 to 2.74).

Assessment of the student design logs indicated good general adherence to the design process with interesting exceptions. Detailed analysis of the assessment data revealed strengths in student preparation for the experiment as well as certain course topics, which will require more in-depth coverage in subsequent offerings of the course. An unexpected result was the finding that there is a requirement to define commonly used terminology when introducing students to the engineering design process.


The engineering design process is fundamental concept in engineering education. One good definition of the engineering design process was provided by the conventional ABET criteria1 (pre 2000): “Engineering design is the process of devising a system, component, or process to meet desired needs. It is a decision-making process (often iterative), in which the basic sciences and mathematics and engineering sciences are applied to convert resources optimally to meet a stated objective. Among the fundamental elements of the design process are the establishment of objectives and criteria, synthesis, analysis, construction, testing, and evaluation.”

Schubert, T., & Jacobitz, F., & Kim, E. (2009, June), The Engineering Design Process: An Assessment Of Student Perceptions And Learning At The Freshman Level Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5398

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