Redesign of the Introduction to Engineering Course and its Impact on Students’ Knowledge and Application of the Engineering Design Process
This evidence-based practice paper will discuss the new structure of the 2-credit introduction to engineering course at [institution] and its impact on students' knowledge and application of the Engineering Design Process. This course was previously structured to have two relatively independent parts. It began by introducing the engineering design process as well as basic engineering skills, tools, and software for the first 6-7 weeks, and ended with a 7-8 week multidisciplinary hands-on team design project. Students learned the concepts needed for the project during the first half of the semester, but they did not have to connect concepts from one unit to the next until the final design project in the second half of the semester. Of specific concern was that students were taught the engineering design process during the second week of the class, but this was not applied to a complete design project until the second half of the class. This course has recently been restructured to teach the design and project concepts in the context of a semester-long project. All details and techniques of the engineering design process, as well as other basic engineering skills and tools, are introduced throughout the entire semester as they become useful in the design project. With the new structure, more just-in-time learning would occur and students are able to apply what they learn immediately in the context of the project.
The new course structure was implemented during the 2015 fall semester in 6 sections of the course, with approximately 40 students each, taught by the authors. Its impact on students’ knowledge and application of the engineering design process will be assessed using a pre- and post-test developed by Saterbak, et al.. Each time, students will be asked to critique a Gantt chart that describes a 14-week schedule of a design project that has many flaws. More specifically, they will be instructed to elaborate on the steps of the design process, discuss strategies appropriate to accomplish each step, and identify strengths and weaknesses of the proposed design process. A class taught using the old structure during the Spring 2015 semester by one of the authors will serve as a control group for the study. The same test was given to the control group during spring 2015 as a take home exam. All responses will be evaluated using the rubrics created by Saterbak, et al. at 8 levels: needs assessment/establishing design criteria; design context review; idea generation; analysis and decision-making; building and testing; overall layout of a design process and iteration; time allotments; and documentation. The results will be compared and discussed.
 Saterbak, A., Volz, T., “Assessing Knowledge and Application of the Design Process in a First-Year Engineering Design Course”, in American Society for Engineering Education Conference, Proceedings of, Indianapolis, IN, 2014.
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