Professor-driven, student-driven, and client-driven design projects

H.G. Ansell
FIE '98. 28th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference. Moving from 'Teacher-Centered' to 'Learner-Centered' Education. Conference Proceedings (Cat. No.98CH36214)  
Over the past ten years, this instructor has been involved with various types of design projects for engineering and engineering technology students at Penn State Berks Campus (now part of Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College). This paper suggests some of the advantages that students may gain from their design project experience. It also suggests the likely special advantages of three types of design projects: professor-driven, student-driven, and clientdriven. A design project in which the
more » ... ject in which the specifications are chosen by the professor is valuable in allowing students to apply what they have learned in a course. Such projects are also likely to be adequately challenging to the students. A design project in which the project and its specifications are chosen by the student is valuable in permitting the student to explore his or her interests. It has a good chance of being within the student's capabilities, and is likely to raise the student's selfconfidence, and be enjoyed by the student. A design project in which the specifications are determined mainly by a client's needs will likely draw on more than what is taught in any one class. It will impose constraints and pressures preparing a student for a job involving design, including time pressures, cost containment pressures, and pressures of meeting important specifications. It will tend to encourage students to brainstorm for ideas and to consider alternative designs. It will tend to encourage adequate testing of the product. It may involve some opportunity for negotiation over the specifications. It will help the student acquire the habit of maintaining a customer focus. The paper concludes that there is no optimum type of design project for all purposes; each type offers different likely advantages. It suggests that in many cases the selection of a project topic and the choice of specifications for the design project will involve some role for the professor (at least in approving project proposals), a role for the students (in selecting something feasible by the students and of interest to them), and some role involving either the needs of a real client or the presumed needs of a hypothetical client (so that the product is useful). It suggests that such a mix is likely to be challenging, of interest to the student, and likely to involve realistic design pressures.
doi:10.1109/fie.1998.736824 fatcat:nt4pksd3ibfmllljrr2ikrfyie