This research paper will assess the impacts of engineering projects over the typical four to five years in an undergraduate degree. The results will focus on the ability of students’ design-thinking and problem-solving skills. Engineering design projects require optimized solutions to be creative, feasible, economic, sustainable, and technically accurate. User needs drive design thinking to be an iterative process with a focus on several different facets of design. It is assumed that experiencing multiple design projects throughout their coursework improves the design self-efficacy of engineering students.
Engineering projects provide an opportunity for STEM students to participate in hands-on and active learning, which isn’t available in a typical lecture-based course. These projects are expected to scaffold students to expert level engineering thinking. This will allow them to solve real world problems from the projects they are participating in and become better design thinkers throughout their undergraduate education. Alternatively, industry professionals find the skill of decision making and real-world problem solving as essential to what engineers do in the field. Projects often offer instructor independent learning and studying. Examining the impact of project-based courses on design self-efficacy throughout the completion of an undergraduate degree can indicate the best type of coursework to help students think like experts. This study showcases alternative project-based teaching methods and how they contribute to preparing undergraduate engineering students for industry-design projects.
At [a large 4 year University] all engineering students take a semester-long course focusing on developing design skills across engineering disciplines. These students are typically in their first year, and the cornerstone course hosts around 300 students a semester. During their coursework at this school students also have the option to participate in Vertically Integrated Projects (VIPs) where they focus on solving specific engineering problems and developing unique projects as a large multi-disciplinary team. There are 29 VIP teams with over 250 students participating in them. All teams have students from multiple academic years. Undergraduates then typically finish their last year taking a capstone design project-based course, but these courses are specific to their major with less focus on multi-disciplinary teams.
Students will be surveyed from the first-year cornerstone course, the VIP Program, and the capstone design courses in order to determine if and how their design thinking ability changes with the number and types of project-based courses that they have completed. The courses discussed above, any engineering course that has a project worth more than 20% of their grade, and any club that students spent more than one hour a week working on a project will be considered as a project experience. This survey will include a question that requires an engineering design solution. The students will then complete a design canvas and a previously peer-reviewed design self-efficacy tool. The design canvas will be assessed based on students’ creativity, decision-making ability, and what fundamental concepts they considered in their design. Using the design self-efficacy tool students will evaluate their own design thinking process and consider where they excelled and struggled during the process. These results will show how and what kind of projects have an impact on the development of design thinking abilities on undergraduate students.
The full paper will be available to logged in and registered conference attendees once the conference starts on
June 22, 2020, and to all visitors after the conference ends on June 26, 2021
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.