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Transforming the Hands-on Learning Experience in a First-year Engineering Design Class to a Remote-learning Environment

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-year Programs: Virtual Instruction in the First Year 1

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count

18

Permanent URL

https://strategy.asee.org/37933

Download Count

98

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Paper Authors

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Huihui Qi University of California, San Diego

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Dr. Huihui Qi is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). She earned her Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Dr. Qi’s teaching interests include Engineering Design, Solid Mechanics, Mechanical System Design, and Computer-Aided Design. Dr. Qi’s areas of interest and expertise include design sustainability, Life Cycle Assessment, decision making for optimal design, and Computer-Aided Design and Engineering Education.

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Carolyn L. Sandoval University of California, San Diego

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Dr. Sandoval is the Associate Director of the Teaching + Learning Commons at the University of California, San Diego. She earned a PhD in Adult Education-Human Resource Development. Her research interests include adult learning and development, faculty development, qualitative methods of inquiry, and social justice education.

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He Liu

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Matthew Robin Kohanfars University of California, San Diego

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I am a mechanical engineering master’s student that is focused on encouraging students to seek engineering careers by developing entertaining and thought-provoking curriculums for the engineering department at UC San Diego. My master's degree background is aimed towards the field of medical technology, where I am able to work in a design laboratory that specializes in researching and developing medical devices. I plan to continue my education to obtain a Ph.D., directing my impact on engineering education and translational research at UC San Diego.

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Edward I Lan University of California, San Diego

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Edward Lan earned his B.S in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, San Diego in 2017. He moved on to work in the aerospace industry at Applied Composites San Diego (Formerly San Diego Composite) directly after graduating, developing new composite technologies devoted to applications for aerospace and defense through small business innovation research(SBIR) funding. In 2020, Edward re-entered the University of San Diego California to pursue a master's degree in mechanical engineering, and is presently specializing in dynamic systems and control, material sciences, and bioinspired robotics. During his undergraduate career, Edward spent 2 years as an instructional tutor for an engineering design course and spatial visualization course at the University of California, San Diego. Presently he is working as an Instructional Assistant during his graduate studies, and is also working as an engineer designing robotic control methods for SBIR technologies at Dynovas Inc.

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Cristian H. Tharin

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Tania K. Morimoto University of California, San Diego Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5319-8995

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Tania K. Morimoto received the B.S. degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, in 2012 and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University, Stanford, CA, in 2015 and 2017, respectively, all in mechanical engineering. She is currently an Assistant Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and an Assistant Professor of surgery with University of California, San Diego. Her research interests include robotics, haptics, and engineering education.

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Abstract

This evidence-based practice paper will describe the transformation of the hands-on learning experience for a freshman Mechanical Engineering design course at XX University. The changes were designed to cope with the challenges raised by the remote learning environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The standard in-person version of the course includes lectures taught in traditional lecture halls, and labs, which are performed in a Design Studio filled with a variety of fabrication equipment. As the first engineering design course in the curriculum, it provides important learning experiences for the first-year mechanical engineering students. The course teaches several critical concepts, such as basic engineering graphics and CAD skills, engineering design principles, basic machine design, prototyping skills, as well as teamwork and communication skills. These learning objectives were taught in lectures but, more importantly, they were enhanced through labs, where students could complete two hands-on projects. Project #1 was a pre-defined individual project, and project #2 was an open-ended team-based project, designed to enable creativity. As project #2 was team-based, it served to promote connections among first-year students and helped them build an inclusive community. Further, the hands-on learning experience provided an opportunity for students to gain a better understanding of mechanical engineering and to build a stronger interest in their declared major.

The remote teaching setting has created a significant obstacle to providing the students with a similar hands-on learning experience required to meet the course learning objectives and goals mentioned above. The lack of access to hardware materials and laboratory equipment has significantly reduced the feasibility of implementing hands-on course projects. Although students can still complete parts of the design process, including conceptual design generation and Computer-Aided-Design modeling, the lack of hands-on prototyping, analysis, and design iteration has hindered students’ mastery of important concepts usually learned through project application. Lastly, the absence of an engaging course project may also reduce students’ motivation and interest in the subject matter.

To address these issues, a transformation of the hands-on learning component of the course was planned and implemented. One element of the transformation was to create hardware kits that allow students to work at home on projects similar to the in-person version of the course, and enable them to achieve the same learning objectives. One challenge was to ensure that the kit contained all necessary tools and materials needed for fabricating parts without access to lab equipment, such as laser cutters or 3D printers. Another element of the transformation was to modify the structure of both projects, in order to make the hands-on activities feasible and compatible with the hardware kits developed, while also preserving the learning objectives and course goals. Risks, such as safety, were considered and mitigated during the development of the hardware kits and project structure.

In this paper, we will use students’ work, survey feedback, course evaluations, and focus group interview data to assess the success of the hands-on learning experience transformation for remote learning. We will compare data from three sources: (i) data from terms when the course was taught in the regular in-person setting, where the students have access to lab materials and equipment, (ii) previous term when the course was delivered remotely but without the new hardware kits, and (iii) data from the current remote term with the newly developed hardware kits. We will evaluate students’ project design deliverables to assess the effectiveness of achieving course learning objectives using the hardware kit. We will also investigate how the modified hands-on learning experiences have impacted students' perception on their first-year engineering experience, including any changes in their level of interest in engineering and in their sense of belonging in the mechanical engineering community. Although the transformation described in this paper was motivated by the remote teaching forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, it can also be used for design courses that are intended to be online.

Qi, H., & Sandoval, C. L., & Liu, H., & Kohanfars, M. R., & Lan, E. I., & Tharin, C. H., & Morimoto, T. K. (2021, July), Transforming the Hands-on Learning Experience in a First-year Engineering Design Class to a Remote-learning Environment Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://strategy.asee.org/37933

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