Project-Based Learning and Design Experiences in Introduction to Engineering Courses: Assessing an Incremental Introduction of Engineering Skills

Andrew Gerhart, Robert Fletcher
2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings   unpublished
Project-based learning (PBL) can be particularly effective for first-year engineering students in introduction to engineering courses. Because PBL can be an exciting and engaging educational experience if implemented correctly, its use is crucial in the first year of an engineering curriculum that is otherwise filled with non-engineering-specific courses. Students in Lawrence Technological University's Introduction to Engineering course complete seven design projects which not only introduce
more » ... t only introduce some technical engineering content, but also introduce the engineering design process and other engineering skills. In past offerings of the course, while completing the first few projects, students typically skipped the essential initial steps in the engineering design process even after hearing an entire lecture on the importance of following the process and being instructed to follow the steps on the assignment directions. Therefore, this paper first explains and provides evidence how the project-based learning method was used for the first two projects in the course to emphasize and enforce the use of initial steps in the engineering design process. Next, an explanation is presented on how the series of seven design/build/test projects were used to incrementally introduce concepts/skills that the students will need to use throughout their engineering education and as future practicing engineers. The intention is to progressively build their repertoire of skills with each subsequent project emphasizing a newly introduced skill. Some skills included are the use of the engineering design process, effective teamwork, oral and written communication, using the computer as an engineering tool, and multi-component fabrication and processes. The final comprehensive project requires the use of all of these critical skills for successful completion. An assessment has been performed to measure how the students skill usage is changing throughout their project work. Student perceptions of the importance and/or practice of each skill were measured through questionnaires following the completion of each project. Therefore the progressive assessment allows for tracking the shift in perceptions of the importance placed upon and use of the skills. In addition, the perceived importance and subsequent use of each particular step of the engineering design process was measured for each student from the first to the final project of the course. Again, the shift in perceived use of process steps was tracked. Finally, specific skills and specific steps within the engineering design process from select design projects were directly assessed using rubrics by the course instructor for comparison to student perceptions. Analysis of these assessment data revealed some expected trends in student practice of the engineering skills, however, a few unexpected results indicate modifications in subsequent offerings of the course may be required.
doi:10.18260/1-2--18463 fatcat:hjw5vbvxerfkjbc4y4moimy73i