Engineering students are required to take several mathematics and science course along with other general university requirements during their first and part of second year. They have to wait for several semesters after admission before they get to work on engineering design activities. This can have a demoralizing effect on some students and they will start losing interest in and passion for engineering. Introductory first year course, such as Fundamentals of Engineering Design (FED101), presents the perfect opportunity to get students to participate in hands-on engineering design related activities. The challenge though is the lack of background knowledge of these students in engineering design principles and process. We used a concept design activity using Lego pieces to get students to participate in various stages of engineering product design process. Students were divided into groups of Four (4) per team and were handed 10 regular random Lego pieces plus one fancy Lego piece. Students were asked to work together to design a widget – an abstract unit of production, such as manufactured device or other product (Wikipedia Definition). We provided student groups with several ideas of products to pick from, although, they were free to come up with their own ideas. The engineering design activity (labeled as the Widget Activity) was conducted in two parts. In part 1, students were asked to design a product and make a model using the Lego pieces. They were encouraged to utilize the fancy Lego piece to demonstrate creativity. Student groups submitted a two-page report highlighting key information about their widget along with a digital design sketch. In part 2, student groups were asked to prepare list of parts and assembly instructions for their product. All groups then randomly exchanged their widgets with other groups and all groups then tried to put together the widget they received using assembly instructions. We timed the groups as they assembled the products and it served as an additional motivation to finish quickly and accurately. The overall Engineering Design activity served several learning outcomes including getting students to work as a team, introduction to product design process, applying problem solving skills among others. We have successfully implemented this with Civil Engineering and General Engineering cohorts. The activity was very well received by the students. We plan to assess the effectiveness of this activity using surveys and focus groups and hope to expand this initiative to all other FED101 sections.
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