Austin PROCEED:
Project-Centered Education in Mechanical Engineering

Lead Institution: University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

Category: Course/Curricular

Date Implemented: September 2000

Website: http://www.me.utexas.edu/proceed/

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Program Description: PROCEED (Project-Centered Education) is a department-wide curriculum reform program with the overarching goal of producing BS graduates who are exceptionally industry- and graduate study-ready. The central themes are (1) better connection of theory with practice, (2) restoration of the “hands-on” element of engineering education, (3) building teamwork and organizational skills, (4) enhancing communication skills, and (5) developing competence in dealing with complex open-ended problems. Specific activities include collaboration with corporate engineers to develop case studies, videoconferencing with corporate engineers to demonstrate applications of related theory, use of reverse engineering of real products and systems in many courses to teach analysis and design, development of hands-on labs and integration of lab work with theory in core courses, introduction of new computer simulation projects in several theory courses, development of an online portfolio system to showcase student project work, development and application of comprehensive assessment methods, opening of a senior elective sequence to a broad variety of career path options, and creation of Bridges to the Future certificate programs which encourage high-performing undergraduates to participate in research as a jump-start to graduate study. Faculty met in informal seminars to discuss how to prepare mechanical engineers for the 21st century with no budget, space, or faculty constraints. Workshops, some with corporate advisors, then defined 15 pilot projects. Components are often provided by sponsors, who also provide detailed product information and send engineers to talk about them. Faculty and students regard project-centered education as worth the extra effort, although some students try to keep their GPAs up by taking fewer semester hours in PROCEED, thus lengthening time to graduation. We are exploring ways to alleviate concerns by carefully eliminating low value-added content and possibly expanding summer offerings of time-intensive courses.

Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: Our specific desired outcomes are: ability to (1) know and apply engineering and science fundamentals; (2) solve open-ended problems; (3) design mechanical components, systems, and processes; (4) set up, conduct, and interpret experiments and present results in a professional manner; (5) use modern computer tools; (6) communicate in written, oral, and graphical forms; (7) work in teams; (8) lay a foundation for learning beyond the degree; and awareness of (9) professional practice issues, including ethical responsibility, creative enterprise, and loyalty and commitment to the profession; and (10) contemporary issues in engineering, including economic, social, political, and environmental issues and global impact. Student evaluations, particularly related to Outcomes 1 through 7, show PROCEED sections consistently rate higher in quantity of work, quality of assignments, and improvement of student skill level than conventional courses. Course instructor and graduate surveys reflect high student satisfaction despite high workloads. ABET accreditation reviews cited the hands-on philosophy as a major strength and gave high marks to courses employing reverse engineering. Outcomes 8, 9, and 10 depend on general education courses and extracurricular experiences.

Assessment Information: The QQI (Quantity, Quality, and Improvement) instrument was developed to assess student perceptions of the effectiveness of project-based courses by measuring the quantity and quality of learning opportunities and student achievements with respect to specified learning outcomes. It was piloted in 2002, incorporated in an online survey, and subsequently implemented in a representative sample of newly implemented project-centered courses. QQI provided valuable feedback to instructors at the formative stage, as well as confirming which outcomes received the highest positive student response as a result of the implementation of project-centered learning. Other methods include exit interviews with graduating seniors, feedback from recruiters and departmental advisory committees, and ABET reviews. A doctoral student from the College of Education with 10 years of mechanical engineering experience developed metrics for assessing the effectiveness of project-based methods. Detailed formative and summative evaluations of several PROCEED classes against control sections were carried out in the early stage of implementation. As the program transitioned to mainstream implementation, less formal qualitative evaluations were carried out on a regular annual basis for our ABET documentation process.

Funding/Sustainability: External support has been provided by corporate and private donors, who contribute financially and in-kind with equipment and components. Corporate partners compete aggressively for graduates and have articulated three primary objectives: (1) achieve a high level of visibility and name recognition, (2) motivate students toward consideration of careers in their respective industries by exposing them to projects illustrative of the type of work they might do after graduation, and (3) raise the overall quality of the undergraduate educational experience, thereby enhancing their professional competence and leadership potential. Initial startup costs for the program totaled approximately $900K over a 4-year period, 70% funded by corporate grants and 30% by internal matching. The approximate breakdown was: lab equipment and renovation, 60%; salaries and wages (developmental), 30%; administrative support, 7%; miscellaneous, 3%. Since its inception, a total of over $1.5 million has been contributed by corporate sources. We have been able to absorb the added costs into our regular operating budget, and have been able to maintain a modest level of new curriculum and lab development through continuing support from loyal donors.



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Austin PROCEED: Project-Centered Education in Mechanical Engineering Lead Institution: University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX Category: Course/Curricular Date Implemented: September 2000 Website: http://www.me.utexas.edu/proceed/ Program Description: PROCEED (Project-Centered Educa- tion) is a department-wide curriculum reform program with the overarching goal of producing BS graduates who are exception- ally industry- and graduate study-ready. The central themes are (1) better connection of theory with practice, (2) restoration of the “hands-on” element of engineering education, (3) building reviews cited the hands-on philosophy as a major strength and teamwork and organizational skills, (4) enhancing communica- gave high marks to courses employing reverse engineering. tion skills, and (5) developing competence in dealing with Outcomes 8, 9, and 10 depend on general education courses and complex open-ended problems. Specific activities include extracurricular experiences. collaboration with corporate engineers to develop case studies, Assessment Information: The QQI (Quantity, Quality, and videoconferencing with corporate engineers to demonstrate Improvement) instrument was developed to assess student applications of related theory, use of reverse engineering of real perceptions of the effectiveness of project-based courses by products and systems in many courses to teach analysis and measuring the quantity and quality of learning opportunities design, development of hands-on labs and integration of lab and student achievements with respect to specified learning work with theory in core courses, outcomes. It was piloted in 2002, introduction of new computer incorporated in an online survey, simulation projects in several and subsequently implemented in a theory courses, development of an representative sample of newly online portfolio system to showcase student project work, implemented project-centered courses. QQI provided valuable development and application of comprehensive assessment feedback to instructors at the formative stage, as well as methods, opening of a senior elective sequence to a broad confirming which outcomes received the highest positive variety of career path options, and creation of Bridges to the student response as a result of the implementation of project- Future certificate programs which encourage high-performing centered learning. Other methods include exit interviews with undergraduates to participate in research as a jump-start to graduating seniors, feedback from recruiters and departmental graduate study. Faculty met in informal seminars to discuss advisory committees, and ABET reviews. A doctoral student how to prepare mechanical engineers for the 21st century with from the College of Education with 10 years of mechanical no budget, space, or faculty constraints. Workshops, some with engineering experience developed metrics for assessing the corporate advisors, then defined 15 pilot projects. Components effectiveness of project-based methods. Detailed formative and are often provided by sponsors, who also provide detailed summative evaluations of several PROCEED classes against product information and send engineers to talk about them. control sections were carried out in the early stage of imple- Faculty and students regard project-centered education as worth mentation. As the program transitioned to mainstream imple- the extra effort, although some students try to keep their GPAs mentation, less formal qualitative evaluations were carried out up by taking fewer semester hours in PROCEED, thus length- on a regular annual basis for our ABET documentation process. ening time to graduation. We are exploring ways to alleviate Funding/Sustainability: External support has been provided concerns by carefully eliminating low value-added content and by corporate and private donors, who contribute financially and possibly expanding summer offerings of time-intensive courses. in-kind with equipment and components. Corporate partners Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: Our specific desired compete aggressively for graduates and have articulated three outcomes are: ability to (1) know and apply engineering and primary objectives: (1) achieve a high level of visibility and science fundamentals; (2) solve open-ended problems; (3) name recognition, (2) motivate students toward consideration of design mechanical components, systems, and processes; (4) set careers in their respective industries by exposing them to up, conduct, and interpret experiments and present results in a projects illustrative of the type of work they might do after professional manner; (5) use modern computer tools; (6) graduation, and (3) raise the overall quality of the undergradu- communicate in written, oral, and graphical forms; (7) work in ate educational experience, thereby enhancing their profes- teams; (8) lay a foundation for learning beyond the degree; and sional competence and leadership potential. Initial startup costs awareness of (9) professional practice issues, including ethical for the program totaled approximately $900K over a 4-year responsibility, creative enterprise, and loyalty and commitment period, 70% funded by corporate grants and 30% by internal to the profession; and (10) contemporary issues in engineering, matching. The approximate breakdown was: lab equipment and including economic, social, political, and environmental issues renovation, 60%; salaries and wages (developmental), 30%; and global impact. Student evaluations, particularly related to administrative support, 7%; miscellaneous, 3%. Since its Outcomes 1 through 7, show PROCEED sections consistently inception, a total of over $1.5 million has been contributed by rate higher in quantity of work, quality of assignments, and corporate sources. We have been able to absorb the added costs improvement of student skill level than conventional courses. into our regular operating budget, and have been able to Course instructor and graduate surveys reflect high student maintain a modest level of new curriculum and lab develop- satisfaction despite high workloads. ABET accreditation ment through continuing support from loyal donors. 24