A Preliminary Study of the Design Approaches to Project Work Taken by Undergraduate Engineering Students
Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA)
We report on a preliminary study of discrete design processes and their timing, when undergraduate engineering students undertake project work. The method of the study followed the approach undertaken by others1,2 where the project design cycle is broken into discrete stages, for example problem definition, modeling, feasibility analysis and communication. In these previous studies the design was over approximately 3 hours1 using a single session design problem and required talking aloud by the
... alking aloud by the designer, so that an observer could assess the stages being undertaken at given time intervals. Our study is over one or two terms and uses self-reporting by students to the criteria. Weekly emails prompted students with individualized links to a webform to report the type of design work done in the previous week. Because a week is a relatively long interval, the web form asks the students to report in terms of their primary (most effort and time) and secondary tasks. Similar to previous studies, this study compares the time spent and the points in the design cycle when certain process are undertaken or revisited. Our results, however, describe the design process over various durations (one term projects or full-year capstone projects), for different years of study (primarily, third and fourth year), different fields of engineering (from Aerospace, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical as well as Systems) and finally for different sized teams (from pairs of students in course projects to teams of twenty in Mechanical and Aerospace capstone projects). Comparisons will also be made between the design processes of different students, based on their final grade for their project. This first year of study is seen as a preliminary year to a longer and broader study, and the paper present our preliminary results as well as lessons learned in the areas of self-reporting and sizeable, longer-term data collection.