Engineering Design & Society is a hands-on first-year course teaching human-centered design to inspire engineering students to become innovators to help humanity. Students are actively engaged in practicing the human-centered design and prototyping process while learning makerspace and hands-on skills (solid modeling, 3D printing, programming, microelectronics, sensors, actuators, basic hand & power tools). Students then practice and incorporate these skills into the design process in a multidisciplinary team to research, design, build, document, and present on their functional prototype of a solution to help humanity to meet specific desired needs.
The course is centered on experiential learning and innovation practice for all engineering freshmen through hands-on education in a classroom structured as a makerspace. Students collaborate at worktables in teams, each team with their own tools, with a dedicated class suite of 3D printers and other maker tools to help students not only design but also physically build and program functional prototypes.
The goals and benefits of the Engineering Design & Society course are to: 1) Promote a culture of making in first-year students by introducing solid modeling, programming, sensors, data acquisition, 3D printing, and other maker tools; 2) Help students learn techniques to solve open-ended engineering challenges; 3) Build student self-confidence in their individual making skills (especially for female and minority engineering students) to increase student hands-on participation in engineering societies, innovation challenges, and internships, and 4) Build teamwork and cooperative learning skills through participation in multidisciplinary teams.
This work outlines the makerspace structure of the physical environment, and hands-on nature of the curriculum of this first-year course. Impact on students is examined both quantitative and qualitatively through student self-reported surveys from the pilot sections of the course. Survey data examines student perceptions on the how structure and content of the course impact student identity as makers and their self-confidence in making skills. Student self-reported data on gender, ethnic background, major, prior programming experience, and prior building experience are included to examine maker-centered impact across a diverse background of first-year engineering students.
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