Walking on Water Term Design Project in Fundamentals of Engineering Course
This Complete Evidence-based Practice paper outlines the benefits of incorporating a challenging team design term project into a first-year engineering class for students majoring in electrical, bio, mechanical, and students who have not declared a major. The course provides core engineering knowledge and competencies in a highly interactive course format. Topics include professional skills such as technical writing and presentation, guidelines for professional engineering practice, and career preparation.
In this three credit-hour course, an engineering approach to problem-solving is taught with an emphasis on teamwork, communication (oral, and written), creativity, ingenuity, and computer-aided design tools. The instructional approach used in this course involves freshman engineering students as active participants in the learning process. Project-based learning involves implementing projects with hands-on tasks, well-defined outcomes, multiple solutions to the given problem, and linking science and engineering concepts.
One of the signature assignments in the course is the “Walking on Water” (WOW) team-based design challenge. Students form design teams. They learn the systematic design process and design verification methods. This introductory design experience culminates with a review and presentation of design and a technical report. This project forms a structured introduction to the implementation of principles of design and engineering methodologies, project management, and presentation skills. Teams must design a system that propels a single person (the “operator”) across the entire length of the University’s swimming pool with a walking or running motion entirely above water. The project is open-ended in the sense that students are allowed to creatively design and fabricate a system that satisfies the requirements. This approach encourages pluralistic thinking wherein students are free to come up with any working design and are not bound by a right/wrong philosophy commonly encountered in exams.
Teams learned important lessons about the transition from conception to implementation. One of the most important outcomes of the course was learning to work effectively in teams. At the end of the course, each team was assessed not only on the quality of design but also on team efficacy. The students developed professional socialization skills while preparing their technical reports and oral (PowerPoint and poster) presentations. On the last day of the program, students presented their group projects to a campus audience.
In this paper, we report and analyze project data for several years of WOW projects.
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