• Improving Freshman Educational Experience Through Engineering Design Projects

      El Breidi, Farad; Chen, Jotam; Sturgeon, Madelyn
      This work introduces a team-oriented, hands-on engineering project to design a miniature racing car that will compete in a series of challenges. Each team, consisting of three to four members, will be given a battery and a motor by the beginning of the semester, and by the end of the semester, must come up with their own unique design, manufacture their design, present it to the class and engineering faculty and staff, and compete in a series of racing challenges. The miniature racing car project awakes a desire of learning about engineering while acquiring useful skills such as problem solving, machining, time management, leadership, teamwork, etc. In addition, the students learn how to utilize engineering software such as MATLAB, SolidWorks, AutoCAD, and others in a creative manner to benefit in the project. The project is centered on the Conceive, Design, Implement, and Operate (CDIO) process, which is an innovative educational technique based on the principle that product, process, and system development are a key context for an engineering education. This project enhances students learning experience, helps each individual acquire technical and analytical skills, and allows them to experience what it's like to work on an engineering design using the proper software and hardware tools. According to United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineers hold approximately 1.7 billon jobs (Torpey, 2018). Therefore, the importance of a well-structured education is extremely important, not only for the university, but for the economy as well. When such a design project was first introduced in engineering education, it seemed to be unattainable and overwhelming for first-year engineering students. First-year engineering students tend to question if they will be able to come up with creative designs and develop innovative devices within a relatively short period of time. Implementing a system engineering and freshman design course in the engineering core that challenges students to build a miniature racing car is beneficial for the students. This project breaks down the CDIO process into an easier understanding concept. Educational benefits that have been discovered are that students realize what they are interested in, discover what their roles are as a part of a team, gain soft and technical skills, and enjoy the project overall. The ultimate goal of the project is to have an operating car that can successfully complete all four races. The effectiveness of the project was quantitatively measured through surveys that exposed the students to different aspects of the course. This showed that although most students thought they did not have the skills to successfully complete the project, at the end, they were able to succeed and learn from the experience. Reference: Torpey, E. (2018, February). Engineers: Employment, pay, and outlook: Career Outlook. Retrieved from www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/article/engineers.htm