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Work in Progress: Introduction of Failure Analysis to a First-year Robotics Course

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

FPD and DEEDs Joint Postcard Sessions

Tagged Divisions

First-Year Programs and Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Kathleen A. Harper Ohio State University

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Kathleen A. Harper is a senior lecturer in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. She received her M. S. in physics and B. S. in electrical engineering and applied physics from Case Western Reserve University, and her Ph. D. in physics from The Ohio State University. She has been on the staff of Ohio State’s University Center for the Advancement of Teaching, in addition to teaching in both the physics and engineering education departments. She is currently a member of the ASEE Board of Directors' Advisory Committee on P-12 Engineering Education.

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Richard J. Freuler Ohio State University

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Richard J. (Rick) Freuler is a Professor of Practice and the Director for the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) Program in Ohio State's Department of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering. He teaches the two-semester FEH engineering course sequence and is active in engineering education research. He is also affiliated with the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and conducts scale model investigations of gas turbine installations for jet engine test cells and for marine and industrial applications of gas turbines at the Aerospace Research Center at Ohio State. Dr. Freuler earned his Bachelor of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering (1974), his B.S. in Computer and Information Science (1974), his M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering (1974), and his Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering (1991) all from The Ohio State University.

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Lauren Corrigan Parker School Hawaii

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Lauren Corrigan is a high school teacher at Parker School Hawaii and a former lecturer in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. She earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Ohio State. She has two years of industry experience as an environmental engineering consultant. Her responsibilities included solid waste design, construction quality assurance, and computer aided design in support of various environmental projects. At Ohio State, Lauren engaged in teaching and curriculum development within the First-Year Engineering Program. Her research interests included the retention and success of students in STEM fields, with a particular focus on under-represented populations.

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This work-in-progress paper describes the first implementation of a failure analysis component added to an existing first-year cornerstone course. The first-year engineering program at University X provides honors students with the opportunity to engage in an intensive design-and-build robotics project. The primary educational objective of this course is to give students a realistic engineering experience, so that at the end of their first year, they can make educated decisions about whether engineering is the profession they want for themselves, and, if so, what particular engineering discipline they want as a major. To that end, the project includes many aspects of real-world engineering, including teamwork, budgeting, planning a project schedule, communicating orally and in writing, documenting, programming a microcontroller, constructing and wiring a device, and, of course, designing, testing, and refining of a product.

The robot project was first conceived over two decades ago, and it continues to evolve both technically and pedagogically. In the spring of 2017, one refinement was adding a failure analysis component to the course. It has always been part of the course that teams are required to participate in performance tests at several points during the term to determine whether their product is progressing according to schedule and executing as intended. The additional element required any team that scored fifty percent or less on a performance test to engage in a post-performance test analysis. They were to identify the causes for why the robot did not achieve the goals of the test, along with likely strategies for remedying the problems identified. They had the option of submitting the analysis either as a short video or a one-to-two page report.

In the first semester of this requirement, there were four performance tests, and about half of the participating teams engaged in one or more failure analyses. The majority chose the written submission option. This paper describes the common causes students identified for their failures, as well as the range of solutions they proposed for fixing them. Additionally, a question on the course-end survey solicited feedback from the students regarding the educational value of the post-performance test failure analysis. Student responses were mixed, but have suggested refinements to the assignment that will be implemented in the next offering of the course.

Harper, K. A., & Freuler, R. J., & Corrigan, L. (2018, June), Work in Progress: Introduction of Failure Analysis to a First-year Robotics Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31294

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