SPIRALed Engineering Education

Lead Institution: University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Collaborating Institutions: Olin College of Engineering, the University of Texas at Austin, Virginia Tech, community colleges in Utah

Category: Capstone, Course/Curricular

Date Implemented: August 2008

Website: mech.utah.edu

logo

img

Program Description: The purpose of this program is to improve students’ abilities to solve practical, open-ended engineering problems by improving their critical thinking skills and their knowledge of engineering hardware, science, and modeling and simulation tools. We are doing this (1) in a manner applicable to large public institutions with inadequate resources, (2) for incoming students with limited knowledge of engineering and declining science and math skills, and (3) in the face of burgeoning enrollments. For place-based educational institutions, now challenged by online education, we have asked three questions concerning how we can maintain the excellence of the education of engineers in the USA. How can we (1) best utilize the revolutionary technological advances affecting education, (2) complement them to improve our students’ education, and (3) do so economically in large, public institutions? Our approach is to develop coordinated sequences of courses that involve (1) SPIRALing the students’ education (Student-driven Pedagogy of Integrated, Reinforced, Active Learning) by reinforcing and extending their knowledge in a coordinated series of classes (vs. the inoculation approach of isolated lecture classes); (2) teaching by design to motivate learning via open-ended projects that involve modeling, simulation and construction, and competitions with finished devices, while also developing teamwork and communication skills; (3) tailoring projects to each course’s technical material; (4) providing laboratory experiences that build towards the students’ designs; and (5) using video lectures to complement textbooks so that class time can be better used for active learning. We have begun incorporating these elements into two, two-course sequences. The first-year sequence has a mechatronics and robotics theme and emphasizes engineering spreadsheet calculations, software skills, hardware, manufacturing skills, and programming and controls. The sophomore year sequence has a sustainability theme and emphasizes numerical methods and thermodynamics. Our emphasis is on developing a strong basis for spiraling knowledge into our junior level courses, particularly mechatronics, which has a year-long design project, and into our senior capstone design project course. We plan to have complete documentation of the guidelines needed for an instructor anywhere to self-start our new courses and once developed, these electronic/hardcopy manuals will be continually updated as our courses evolve.

Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: We are tracking three outcomes: (a) final exams (pre- and post-introduction of revised classes), (b) retention of knowledge, measured via exams at the start of the junior year, and (c) retention, tracking the names of students receiving upper-division status in the Mechanical Engineering program. The primary goal of the four new courses is to teach students the skills needed to develop, apply, and evaluate engineering models when designing engineering systems. Within each course, students learn and integrate the modeling, mathematical, experimental, programming and manufacturing techniques needed to complete a project. Modeling predictions are compared to the performance of the students’ devices during the final competitions. Professional engineering skills to be improved are: (a) design methodology skills, i.e., ability to organize, manage and complete engineering projects, including problem definition, creativity, appropriate analysis, system integration, follow-through to construction and completion, economic considerations, design under uncertainty, testing and evaluation; (b) communication and teamwork skills developed through multiple design projects, which are natural vehicles for proposals, memos, design reviews, final reports and co-operative learning; and c) awareness of social, ethical, and environmental concerns.

Assessment Information: These courses are under development so full evaluation is not yet possible. Preliminary evidence from (a) final exam performance, (b) retention of knowledge, and (c) retention of students indicates that the students are learning the material better as measured by their final exam performance, that they are retaining knowledge better as measured at the beginning of their junior year, and that the new classes are helping us with retention of students. It must be emphasized that this information is very preliminary, with lots of confounding variables, and that eventual evaluation of its success can only come after the courses are more fully developed and refined, and evaluations performed using much more sophisticated tools, especially when evaluating our long-term goal of improving higher-level thinking skills.

Funding/Sustainability: Development of the first two course sequences was funded by a 3-year NSF CCLI grant of $200,000 ($148,480 in direct costs) used to hire graduate student TAs to help develop the materials. The Mechanical Engineering Department provided an additional TA every semester for development and implementation (~$20,000/year) and allowed reduced teaching/additional instructor time during course development. The Senior Vice-President for Academic Affairs provided $11,000 of flexible funding. We have worked closely with the College of Engineering’s CLEAR program (Communication, Leadership, Education and Research), which provides communication instructors who help students with oral presentations, memos and reports, teamwork, and the required end-of-semester self-assessment exercises. CLEAR originated in Mechanical Engineering and spread throughout the college with a William and Flora Hewlett Foundation grant, which led to permanent funding from the University.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 12
SPIRALed Engineering Education Lead Institution: University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT Collaborating Institutions: Olin College of Engineering, the University of Texas at Austin, Virginia Tech, community colleges in Utah Category: Capstone, Course/Curricular Date Implemented: August 2008 Website: mech.utah.edu Program Description: The purpose of this program is to is to teach students the skills needed to develop, apply, and improve students’ abilities to solve practical, open-ended evaluate engineering models when designing engineering engineering problems by improving their critical thinking skills systems. Within each course, students learn and integrate the and their knowledge of engineering hardware, science, and modeling, mathematical, experimental, programming and modeling and simulation tools. We are doing this (1) in a manufacturing techniques needed to complete a project. manner applicable to large public institutions with inadequate Modeling predictions are compared to the performance of the resources, (2) for incoming students with limited knowledge of students’ devices during the final competitions. Professional engineering and declining science and math skills, and (3) in engineering skills to be improved are: (a) design methodology the face of burgeoning enrollments. For place- skills, i.e., ability to organize, manage and com- based educational institutions, now challenged by plete engineering projects, including problem online education, we have asked three questions definition, creativity, appropriate analysis, system concerning how we can maintain the excellence of integration, follow-through to construction and the education of engineers in the USA. How can completion, economic considerations, design we (1) best utilize the revolutionary technological under uncertainty, testing and evaluation; (b) advances affecting education, (2) complement communication and teamwork skills developed them to improve our students’ education, and (3) through multiple design projects, which are natural do so economically in large, public institutions? vehicles for proposals, memos, design reviews, Our approach is to develop coordinated sequences final reports and co-operative learning; and c) of courses that involve (1) SPIRALing the students’ education awareness of social, ethical, and environmental concerns. (Student-driven Pedagogy of Integrated, Reinforced, Active Assessment Information: These courses are under develop- Learning) by reinforcing and extending their knowledge in a ment so full evaluation is not yet possible. Preliminary evidence coordinated series of classes (vs. the inoculation approach of from (a) final exam performance, (b) retention of knowledge, isolated lecture classes); (2) teaching by design to motivate and (c) retention of students indicates that the students are learning via open-ended projects that involve modeling, learning the material better as measured by their final exam simulation and construction, and competitions with finished performance, that they are retaining knowledge better as devices, while also developing teamwork and communication measured at the beginning of their junior year, and that the new skills; (3) tailoring projects to each course’s technical material; classes are helping us with retention of students. It must be (4) providing laboratory experiences that build towards the emphasized that this information is very preliminary, with lots students’ designs; and (5) using video lectures to complement of confounding variables, and that eventual evaluation of its textbooks so that class time can be better used for active success can only come after the courses are more fully devel- learning. We have begun incorporating these elements into two, oped and refined, and evaluations performed using much more two-course sequences. The first-year sequence has a mecha- sophisticated tools, especially when evaluating our long-term tronics and robotics theme and emphasizes engineering spread- goal of improving higher-level thinking skills. sheet calculations, software skills, hardware, manufacturing Funding/Sustainability: Development of the first two course skills, and programming and controls. The sophomore year sequences was funded by a 3-year NSF CCLI grant of $200,000 sequence has a sustainability theme and emphasizes numerical ($148,480 in direct costs) used to hire graduate student TAs to methods and thermodynamics. Our emphasis is on developing a help develop the materials. The Mechanical Engineering strong basis for spiraling knowledge into our junior level Department provided an additional TA every semester for courses, particularly mechatronics, which has a year-long development and implementation (~$20,000/year) and allowed design project, and into our senior capstone design project reduced teaching/additional instructor time during course course. We plan to have complete documentation of the development. The Senior Vice-President for Academic Affairs guidelines needed for an instructor anywhere to self-start our provided $11,000 of flexible funding. We have worked closely new courses and once developed, these electronic/hardcopy with the College of Engineering’s CLEAR program manuals will be continually updated as our courses evolve. (Communication, Leadership, Education and Research), which Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: We are tracking three provides communication instructors who help students with outcomes: (a) final exams (pre- and post-introduction of revised oral presentations, memos and reports, teamwork, and the classes), (b) retention of knowledge, measured via exams at the required end-of-semester self-assessment exercises. CLEAR start of the junior year, and (c) retention, tracking the names of originated in Mechanical Engineering and spread throughout students receiving upper-division status in the Mechanical the college with a William and Flora Hewlett Foundation grant, Engineering program. The primary goal of the four new courses which led to permanent funding from the University. 12