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The Impact of a Hybrid Instructional Design in a First-year Design (Cornerstone) Course on Student Understanding of the Engineering Design Process

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

FPD III: Innovation in Design in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1305.1 - 25.1305.15



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Paper Authors


Susan K. Donohue University of Virginia

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Susan Donohue is a lecturer in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She taught ENGR 1620, Introduction to Engineering, in fall 2011. Her research interests include K-20 engineering education with an emphasis on design, development of spatial skills, and identification and remediation of misconceptions.

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The Impact of a Hybrid Instructional Design in a First-Year Design Class on Student Understanding of the Engineering Design ProcessIn first-year engineering undergraduate programs with a design component, students are typicallyintroduced to the concept and practice of engineering design primarily through lecture,discussion, and project-based activities. A key instructional decision is to choose whichpedagogy, if any, to emphasize; we have chosen to use project-based learning activities and, to asmaller extent, discussion to maximize active learning opportunities. With project-basedlearning, a following decision is whether to stress depth or breadth of exposure to the topic,resulting in students being involved in one main project or a series of smaller projects,respectively; the choice depends on the amount of latitude the instructor has in designing thecourse syllabus and schedule and overall program goals and requirements. Both depth andbreadth approaches have merits and drawbacks, leading to the question whether a hybridinstructional design can capitalize on the strengths of both approaches to provide students anoptimal design education experience.This paper will report the effectiveness of this instructional design in students internalizing andsubsequently owning key concepts and practices of the engineering design process. The class isorganized in two parts: a “design boot camp” in which students are involved in designchallenges from the first day of class for the first half of the semester, and an in-depth challengeduring the second half. The design boot camp is structured along the lines of the engineeringdesign process; student teams iterate through the cycle of identifying a problem or need,developing of a set of solutions from which one is selected for prototyping, testing, evaluation,and reporting for three challenges of increasing complexity and constraints.The first challenge requires students to construct a paper tower from a constrained set ofmaterials with specified performance objectives. A short report documents the process andresults. The second and third challenges have students develop a proposed solution and thenimplement it within two weeks each, with appropriate documentation due and presentationsgiven at the end of each week. The proposal documentation is a subset of the productdocumentation, and is required to be rolled into the product documentation after incorporatingfaculty and student feedback. These two challenges are based on the National Academy ofEngineering’s Grand Challenges. The in-depth challenge is based on the AbilityOne NetworkDesign Challenge. Students will have the opportunity to continue developing and testing theirdevice in the spring semester so they may participate in the national competition.Evaluation of student abilities to internalize and eventually “own” the engineering design processwill be done using a mixed methods approach. Improvement in defining problems and designingsolutions will be tracked through performance on appropriate sections of documentationdeliverables and exam questions; qualitative evaluation of reflections on the challenge andprocess in student engineering notebooks will be used to validate the quantitative measures. Thecode list is emergent. Consultations with instructors of other sections of this first year course area source of qualitative validation, for each instructor is free to design course content andstructure as s/he sees fit. Qualitative measures of how well they believe their studentsunderstand the process will be elicited.

Donohue, S. K. (2012, June), The Impact of a Hybrid Instructional Design in a First-year Design (Cornerstone) Course on Student Understanding of the Engineering Design Process Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22062

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