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Using Project-Based, Experiential, and Service Learning in a Freshman Writing Intensive Seminar for Building Design and Technical Writing Skills (Work in Progress)

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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

Biomedical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1678.1 - 26.1678.5



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Paper Authors


Bilal Ghosn Rice University

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Dr. Bilal Ghosn is a lecture in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice University. A native of Louisiana, he received his doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2009 with his doctoral research in the areas of drug delivery, biomaterials and diagnostics. He then spent 4 years as a post-doctoral fellow in the department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington where he further developed his skills in polymer science, biomaterials, gene therapy, and cancer therapeutics. Dr. Ghosn then moved into a post-doctoral position in undergraduate education at Rice University in 2013 and was later promoted to a full-time lecturer position in Fall of 2014 teaching a variety of courses including labs in Bioprocessing and Tissue Culture along with a lecture course in Molecular Techniques in Bioengineering.

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Tracy Volz Rice University

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Tracy Volz is the Director of the Program in Writing and Communication (PWC) at Rice University. She oversees the First-year Writing-intensive Seminar Program, the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication, ESL resources for international students, and Communication in the Disciplines projects. Prior to leading the PWC, Dr. Volz spent 15 years teaching communication in the Brown School of Engineering at Rice. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Iowa in 1989 and her Ph.D. in English from Rice University in 2001.

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Using Project-Based, Experiential, and Service Learning in a Freshman Writing Intensive Seminar for Building Design and Technical Writing Skills (Work in Progress)Writing and design are two key skills that engineering students should develop to achievesuccess. Freshman writing intensive seminars (FWIS) have recently taken the place of traditionalwritten composition courses at XXXX University. These courses offer students greater exposureto topics related to their desired fields of study. This past semester, a FWIS course has beendeveloped to provide our students with exposure to design principles and technical writing withexperiential learning focused on the topic of designing for disabilities.This course has 3 objectives which are (a) to introduce design principles and their application,(b) to develop technical writing skills, and (c) to gain experience through service with localpartners. These three outcomes align with our goals to develop students with strong design andwriting skills as well as community awareness. To achieve these three outcomes, studentsparticipate and are evaluated on several assignments with the major topic used in the coursebeing the design of supportive equipment for patients, particularly children, with disabilities.The core material for this course focuses on lectures that revolve around technical writing anddesign principles. Classes are rotated between these lectures and class time spent in the designlab implementing group design. Several classes are also spent on ethics and many of the issuesthat are faced when designing for patients with disabilities. This has included activities such asstudents spending a day in a wheelchair, interviewing children with disabilities at a partneringhospital, and working on the design and prototyping of a spoon for children with Arthrogryposis,a disorder that limits a patient’s range of motion in joints such as the wrists and elbows.To evaluate students, a variety of written assignments are assessed. These include a needsassessment, an essay student experience from their day in a wheelchair, an ethical assessment, acritical analysis of a current technology and a design report for their spoon prototype. Studentsare also assessed on a proposal for a future project based on their interviews with patients at ourpartner hospital. These proposals will then serve as potential projects in our following semester’sfirst-year, one-semester freshman design course. These assessments focus on the students’abilities to effectively communicate in a concise and clear manner.While the understanding and application of design principles in the course are key components,it is hoped that this course will provide a significant jumpstart to student interest in engineeringand provide them with an effective transition both for design experience and the ability toeffectively communicate their work in technical manner. Furthermore, it is hoped that this coursewill build potential collaborations and future projects for these students and their fellowclassmates.

Ghosn, B., & Volz, T. (2015, June), Using Project-Based, Experiential, and Service Learning in a Freshman Writing Intensive Seminar for Building Design and Technical Writing Skills (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25014

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