Technical Communication with Project Based Learning (A Six-Section Rube Goldberg Design Project)
AffiliationUniversity of Southern Indiana
TitleTechnical Communication with Project Based Learning (A Six-Section Rube Goldberg Design Project)
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Engineering's accreditation body (ABET) states (in Criterion 3) that every engineering program should have 11 student outcomes by which they measure the program's success. Some of the outcomes are that students should have an ability to: 1) design a system or component, 2) function on multidisciplinary teams, 3) communicate effectively, and 4) use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice. This course has been designed to assess these 4 outcomes with particular emphasis on communicating effectively using modern engineering tools. The importance of detailed technical communication is sometimes a tough lesson to deliver in a pure lecture course. However, when students are tasked with communicating with each other on one whole project, students MUST learn to communicate accurately with their fellow students: both within and among groups. Written and oral reports are still assessed by faculty BUT the true measure of success is how well everything works on the day of the run!
The most recent project assigned to students is the task of constructing a Six-Section Rube Goldberg machine. Each section is assigned to an individual 3-4 person team. Each section must have a theme and 15 unique activations or transfers of energy. Throughout the design and construction process, students are tasked with and must validate that each process within the section is “different” from each other, and “different” from the steps in different sections. This creates an avenue for constant communication between groups. In addition, since the end of one section’s machine, must activate another section’s machine – students are constantly communicating with each other as to how and where their designs will intersect. This project was successful overall