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Using Rapid Prototyping to Realize Design: Mindset and Engineering Self-Efficacy

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Andrea T. Kwaczala Western New England University

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Andrea Kwaczala is an assistant professor at Western New England University in the biomedical engineering department. She teaches Biomechanics, Biomedical Engineering Laboratory Courses, Senior Design and Prosthetic and Orthotic Design. She focuses on hands-on labs centered on student engagement and project based learning. She works in collaboration with Shriners Hospitals for Children where her research focuses in the design of assistive technologies to help people with mobility disabilities move and exercise so they can explore their world, independently.

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Robert Gettens Western New England University

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Rob Gettens is a Professor and Chair of Biomedical Engineering at Western New England University.

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Denine A Northrup Western New England University

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Denine Northrup, Ph.D. is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Western New England University. Dr. Northrup's research interests surround factors that promote student success and resilience with a special interest in underrepresented populations in STEM fields.

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The construction of low-fidelity prototypes is a critical phase of the engineering design process important for realizing design functionality, and to aid in the communication of engineering design ideas to others. The physical act of building, or constructing a prototype is a way to help young engineers develop the confidence they need to recognize themselves as engineers. This research elucidates differences based on gender and 1st-generation status when experiencing rapid prototyping. This work demonstrates the importance of constructionist activities in the engineering design classroom and awareness of its effect on different archetypes of undergraduate students. Females were significantly more likely to see these learning opportunities as an empowering moment, where construction of artifacts made them feel like design engineers compared to their male peers. Additionally, prior experience before college in tinkering, building, and making things were both higher in male students and those from 1st-generation students compared to females. There was a strong association between engineering self-efficacy and confidence in constructionist activities: rapid prototyping low-fidelity artifacts and developing CAD models based on individual design ideas. Not surprising, those with higher engineering self-efficacy had more confidence in their building skills. A major discovery from this work was a clear delineation that those with low engineering self-efficacy also had a lower perception of access to facilities like makerspaces, and rapid prototyping materials that help realize design ideas. The students and faculty agree that making activities are critical as part of the design process and the conclusions of this work demonstrate the need for more exposure to constructionist activities in the engineering design classroom and a stronger message for the availability of resources. Continuous building activities embedded throughout the engineering curriculum may help promote design skills and confidence in those with low engineering self-efficacy.

Kwaczala, A. T., & Gettens, R., & Northrup, D. A. (2021, July), Using Rapid Prototyping to Realize Design: Mindset and Engineering Self-Efficacy Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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