Students Teaching Engineering- Making Products for Education
Updated: 12/11/2020 2:16 PM by
"Students Teaching Engineering" is a flexible hands-on project where students work in teams to create an inexpensive visual aid that illustrates a class concept, then use it to teach someone (a roommate, a relative, a friend, etc.). It can either be a single large homework assignment or a multi-part semester project, and is a great way to provide a hands-on experience in large lecture classes without lab sections. In its expanded form, it provides an opportunity for students to engage with the university maker spaces and fabrication facilities and explore how maker spaces can promote the three Cs: cultivating curiosity, making connections, and creating value.
Though the project can be tailored based on the instructor's class goals, here is how it was recently implemented in a one-credit "Introduction to Aerospace Engineering" freshman class with no lab sections and over 125 students:
1. Students were randomly assigned in teams of four near the start of the semester using CANVAS.
2. On their own time, students visited and learned about campus making facilities and took selfies.
3. The team wrote a preliminary report about their site visits (including selfies) and identified their idea to make an inexpensive visual aid.
4. The instructor graded the preliminary report and provided guidance on the proposed scope of the visual aid planned for fabrication.
1. After feedback, the student teams built their visual aid and used it to teach a friend or relative.
2. Teams wrote a final report and created two PowerPoint slides that included photos of the fabrication and teaching process and a CAD model. Students were not required to turn in the actual visual aid.
3. After the team report was complete, student wrote individual reflective essays about how making facilities promoted the three Cs. Students could opt to provide informed consent for their essays to be used for research purposes and to complete an anonymous survey about the project in exchange for a small amount of extra homework credit.
The anonymous surveys indicated that the students liked the project and were more likely to use the maker spaces in the future because of it. The reflective essays indicated that students perceived that making facilities cultivated student curiosity, were a unique environment for promoting valuable connections, and created enormous value in a university environment.
As noted earlier, this project can be scaled based on instructor goals and class requirements. If exposure to making spaces is not a big priority, then the project works well as a large homework assignment, as seen in another KEEN card: "Teams teaching Statics" (link below).
Details of survey and essay results are included in a 2020 ASEE National conference paper (attached below- © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education)
1. Allow students to exercise curiosity, make connections, and create value while developing a product or “visual aid” to illustrate an aerospace concept or emerging trend.
2. Increase student familiarity with the fabrication facilities on campus and available CAD software.
3. Build fabrication experience typical of small student projects and increase confidence in solving open-ended problems.
4. Identify lessons learned about fabrication and working in teams.
5. Expand student personal networks, and provide opportunities to practice communication and professional skills in a team setting.
1. Though the card name is "Student Teaching Engineering", recommend you name the project after the class where it is used ("Teams Teaching Aerospace", "Students Teaching Statics", etc).
2. This activity is EASY to tailor based on your class goals and your available time- it's OK to start small. If you aren't that focused on maker spaces, you can reduce or eliminate the site visits, the preliminary proposal, the reflective essays and/or the surveys. For the simplest version of the project, check out the KEEN card, "Teams Teaching Statics".
3. Early instructor guidance on the proposed scope of the visual aid turned out to be very important for freshman. In the preliminary proposal many teams described ideas for visual aids that would be difficult to fabricate considering their skill sets and available time. If an instructor eliminates the requirement for a preliminary proposal, they should consider asking student teams to submit their ideas before starting the fabrication process.
4. As described here, the focus of the project was more on entrepreneurial mindset, not skillset. The goal was to get the students curious and excited about the opportunities the campus making facilities provide and to make connections between the classroom and the world around them. The project gives students an opportunity to create value by making a product to educate others, and to see the potential for creating future value by using maker spaces to create physical products of their own design. The technical merits and fabrication quality of the visual aid or the CAD model were not critically evaluated.
5. Decide what approach you want to take on organizing teams. Freshman starting their first semester of classes are more likely to welcome random assignments made by CANVAS or some other class management system (this was confirmed in a student poll at the start of class). Older students are more likely to have people in the class they would prefer to work with. If students are allowed to self organize, make sure you put a due date for team selection, and be prepared to engage with the students who can't find a team.
6. Different universities have different fabrication facilities. Consider the size of your class and your school's capability when assigning due dates.
7. As described here, students were not given any funds to produce their product, but the tasking was very open-ended and they had access to free 3D printing and surplus materials, and hobby electronics (arduinos,etc) were available for checkout at the maker space and library. Before launching the project, instructors should know what is available for free on campus. Machine shops and fabrication facilities may keep scrap materials, and check to see what happens to surplus parts from prior year senior design projects. Instructors may also allocate funding to reimburse students for materials purchased, but that complicates things a lot.
8. To reduce social loafing or freeriding, each team member had to be listed as an author of a paragraph/ section of the report and be included in a photo of the site visits. Photos of the fabrication and teaching phases of the project also helped to confirm participation and completion of the project elements.
If social loafing is a real concern, instructors may allow students to submit their responses to this question (for a four-person team): " If you had 400 points to distribute across the team (including yourself) to reward contributions to the team, how would you give them? For example: MemberName1: 80 points; MemberName2: 110 points; MemberName3: 110 points; me:100 points."
9. One idea for a future variation of this project (but not attempted yet) has students focusing on creating a visual aid for one of following scenarios:
a) address a future trend in aerospace, and teach the concept to someone at least 18 years old.
b) illustrate a basic aerospace concept to a younger audience, then teach a K-12 student.