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Training in Troubleshooting Problem-Solving: Preparing Undergraduate Engineering Students for Industry

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Preparing for Practice

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1261.1 - 23.1261.16

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Paper Authors


Presentacion Rivera-Reyes Utah State University - Engineering Education

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Presentacion Rivera-Reyes is currently a graduate teaching assistant and a PhD student in the Engineering Education Department at Utah State University. He formerly held a position as Professor of Telecommunication Engineering at Technological University of Honduras. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the National Autonomous University of Honduras. He has experience in the telecommunication industry where he worked training engineers and technicians in high-speed transmission system for backbone networks.

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Raymond Edward Boyles Technology and Engineering Education

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Raymond Edward Boyles has an associate’s in specialized, avionics, May 1992, from Pittsburgh Institute
of Aeronautics, and a B.S., information technology, May 2008, and M.S., technology education, Aug.
2009, from California University of PA. Most Relevant Papers: Santoso, H., Boyles, R., Lawanto, O. &
Goodridge, W. (2011). A Preliminary Study of Conducting Semi-Structured Interview as Metacognitive
Assessment in Engineering Design: Issues and Challenges. American Society for Engineering Education.
Presentations, five most relevant: TeleRobotics: The Internet, a Physical Sensor 73rd Annual Conference
Program, ITEEA 2011. Dr. Kallis, J., Boyles, R. Implementation of Microgravity Experiments
in the Classroom 73rd Annual Conference Program, ITEEA 2011 Teaching STEM Concepts with Agile
Robotics. Dr. Kallis, J., Boyles, R. 73rd Annual Conference Program, ITEEA 2009. Tremaux’s Algorithm
with Recursion 73rd Annual Conference Program, ITEEA 2009. ”Normalcy” 2008 Intercollegiate
Art Show, Best of Show, California University of PA, April 3rd, 2008. ”Die Verfeinerung von Sustainability”
Create the Future Design Contest, NASA Tech Briefs and SolidWorks, Oct. 14, 2008. ”Teaching
by strong interest through analogous Java Software,” 56th Annual TEAP Conference. Harrisburg, Penn.,
Nov. 6-7, 2008. ”G.S.Ohm: Electrical Innovation in Industry.” Poster presentation at National Collegiate
Honors Council Conference, Philadelphia, Penn., Nov. 17, 2006. ”Societas crescit: Invention and Innovation
through Team Teaching.” Panel presentation at National Collegiate Honors Council Conference,
Philadelphia, Penn., Nov. 16, 2006. Major Collaborators: Prof. John R. Kallis (California University of
Pa.) Graduate Advisor: Prof. Gary Stewardson (Utah State University). Military: U.S. Army, Fort Carson,
Colo. Unit Administrative Specialist (Dec. 1998-April 1999), duties: Created and maintained databases
for 231 soldiers; responsible for processing all information on incoming and outgoing personnel databases
implementation saved 18% manpower. Nuclear Chemical Biological Specialist (Jan. 1998-Dec. 1998),
duties: Maintained, overhauled and calibrated all chemical equipment; trained soldiers in how to React
in certain NBC situations. Fire Control Repairer, duties: Served as a shop foreman; supervised eight
personnel which were responsible for repairing electronic fire control equipment; repaired all electronic
equipment on the M!A! and Bradley tanks; and maintained records of cost and requisitioned funding from
battalion. Saved 65% in cost by performing office computer repairs. Military Achievements: Two Army
Achievement medals, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Lapel Button,
Army Service Ribbon, Expert Marksmanship Qualification Badge with Grenade Bar, and Marksman
Marksmanship Qualification Badge with Rifle Bar. Work Experience: Utah State University, Jan. 2010
to present, instructor for ETE 1020 energy, power, transportation systems control technology exploration
of the concepts and processes relating to the control and automation (both hard and programmable) of
technical systems in the areas of energy and power, transportation, and agricultural and related biotechnologies.
California University of PA, Jan. 2008 to May 2009, Teaching Assistant. Assisted the professor
in class preparation, lesson plans, and distribution of materials Also gain teaching experience by lecturing
the class section which deals with programming robots. Managed a laboratory, which allowed students
to complete experiments. AT&T Broadband, Pittsburgh Penn., May 2000 to Dec. 2002, Head end Technician,
responsible for all aspects of high speed data, telephony and cable operations, hybrid fiber to
coax transmissions, programming in Visual Basic, C++, Java scripting, and M.S. Office. Experience with
systems such as Cheetah, Path Tracks, and Cornerstone. Access Bandwidth Technician, responsible for
implementing and maintaining telephony network systems for the Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. Data
basing and systems programmer for repairs on nodal analysis and problem solving, Heilig-Meyers Furniture
Company, Richmond, Va., Aug.1994-Nov. 1994, Network/Telephone/Alarm System Installer, traveled
throughout the United States to install computer networks, telephone and alarm systems, which also
included maintenance and repair. Guardian Glass Corporation, Floreffe, Penn., Electrical Maintenance
Technician, Nov. 1993-June 1994, installed PLC systems (Allen-Bradley); repaired and maintained laser
systems, photo helix, pyrometers, and integrated control systems for network operations. WLTJ-WRRK
radio station, installed and calibrated all transmission equipment for this radio station.

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Training in Troubleshooting Problem-Solving: Preparing Undergraduate Engineering Students for Industry Training in troubleshooting in industry tends to take place from the school of hard knocks, bytrial and error, on-the-job training, and gradually from the experience of solving problems asthey occur, with no well-design program of instruction. This is relatively ineffective and it doeslittle to develop self-confidence. Troubleshooting problem-solving is a higher-level cognitiveprocess that ranges from the identification of a problem, the symptoms to determine and theaction required to fix a problem. The knowledge and cognitive process skills needed fortroubleshooting are becoming increasingly valuable. By developing problem-solving skills,engineers will become more adept at troubleshooting problems. Research on troubleshootingproblem-solving has shown that experienced engineers differ from poor engineers’ primarily intheir strategizing to solve troubleshooting problems. Also, researchers have done studies on howto improve the troubleshooting performance of technicians in strategizing to solve a problem. Unfortunately, many engineers today are deficient in problem-solving skills. One maytheorize that a lack of troubleshooting skill is a result of the lack of practical experience andunderstanding of equipment in an engineering students’ educational preparation. There may alsobe a lack of the faculty’s confidence in instructing students in using such open-endedexperiences. To date, much of the research has not been implemented as a part of the curriculumof technical engineering careers. This article reviews and synthesizes more than 30 studies from 20 years (1987-2007) ofresearch in troubleshooting problem-solving. The goals of the article are fourfold: First, tointroduce the concept of troubleshooting problem-solving. Second, to present a description ofproblem-solving skills needed to succeed in troubleshooting. Third, to recommend strategies forinstruction of engineers and technicians. Fourth, to identify potential research pathway thatinvolves more research in troubleshooting problem-solving to support troubleshooting teaching.We conclude that troubleshooting problem-solving should be implemented as part of engineeringcurricula to build on students strengths to enhance their skills to succeed in the performance oftroubleshooting process in industry.

Rivera-Reyes, P., & Boyles, R. E. (2013, June), Training in Troubleshooting Problem-Solving: Preparing Undergraduate Engineering Students for Industry Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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