June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.1427.1 - 11.1427.7
Vertical Mentoring: Closing the Loop in Design
To help students ‘close the loop in design’ – that is, appreciate the importance and depth of their design knowledge through a specific demonstration of this ability beyond their capstone design project – we have implemented a vertical mentoring scheme in biomedical engineering design. Biomedical engineering seniors in the fourth quarter of the design sequence serve as design mentors to teams of juniors beginning their first quarter of design.
In the junior-level course, student teams work on a smaller, common design project to ‘practice’ a complete iteration of the design process before they tackle larger, more open-ended design projects the following term. The seniors, in contrast, are nearing completion of their capstone design projects, conducting product testing vs. design specifications, final documentation, and their final public presentation. In addition to the technical aspects of design, the learning objectives of this senior course include supporting and mentoring the juniors as they are introduced to the engineering design methodology. The seniors role play (in the lecture portion of their course) to learn to guide junior design teams; not telling the teams what to do, but asking questions to uncover potential problems they may encounter.
The most notable outcome from the vertical mentoring experience for the seniors is not that they are helping a junior design team, rather that they realize that they are capable of helping. The seniors are viewed (quite correctly, it turns out) by the Juniors as ‘design experts’ and this reinforces the idea that engineering design is a process, since the seniors do not have any more direct experience with the specific product than the juniors. The major benefit perceived by the Juniors – beyond the guidance they receive on their projects – is the immediate vocational relevance that is provided to the design sequence. The seniors represent where the juniors will ‘be’ next year at this time, and since the seniors “know what they are doing” these design courses must be important and/or useful.
Just as many times it is not possible to ‘see the forest for the trees’, it is also true that often the heights to which one has climbed cannot be appreciated until one has a clear (over)view of the surrounding terrain. With this in mind, we developed a four-quarter sequence in biomedical engineering design that features an extended vertical mentoring interaction between seniors in the final quarter of their capstone experience and junior design teams just beginning the design process.
The main intent of vertical mentoring – that is, bringing students of different cohorts together – is to enable more senior (usually upperclassmen) students to guide and advise their more junior classmates. It depends on the specific situation as to whether the mentoring is specific (the Seniors advise) or ‘by example’ (the Seniors are leading the overall task, and Juniors, etc. learn by watching the Seniors, and undertake simpler tasks under the direction of the Seniors). Both of these are valuable approaches and serve potentially different roles. Leading by example is an
Livesay, G., & Rogge, R. (2006, June), Vertical Mentoring: Closing The Loop In Design Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1343
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