Engineering Design Days: Motivating Students with Authentic Problem-Solving

TitleEngineering Design Days: Motivating Students with Authentic Problem-Solving
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2018
AuthorsRennick, C., R. Al-Hammoud, D. Wright, and A. Milne
Conference NameUW Teaching and Learning Conference
Conference LocationWaterloo

The Engineering IDEAs Clinic has offered “Engineering Design Days” to various classes as a two-day, class-free, hackathon-based model to address student learning outcomes, and issues with student engagement and motivation. There is a growing body of work around the use of extra-curricular hackathons to promote engagement, innovation, teamwork, and problem-solving in engineers before, during, and after their undergraduate studies. Unfortunately, there are few examples of hackathons used as curricular learning opportunities.

We will describe one model for a class-integrated, curricular hackathon which has (of this writing) been deployed in five different undergraduate programs (Civil, Computer, Electrical, Mechanical, and Mechatronics Engineering) on eight separate occasions, with another two upcoming offerings (first and second year Environmental/Geological Engineering). The development of CivE Days was made possible through a LITE grant.

While each implementation has unique course-level objectives, all Engineering Design Days are designed to provide students with an opportunity to:
• engage with open-ended, authentic problems that integrate knowledge across multiple courses
• develop their hands-on skills by implementing an engineering system of their own design
• develop their identities as engineers while practicing their professional skills

We will discuss similarities and differences between the various offerings, as well as a general framework for other instructors to implement a similar concept in their own programs. Students and course instructors from each implementation described in this presentation provided feedback through surveys, focus groups, and/or interviews. The results so far have been overwhelmingly positive from both students and instructors, with the adoption of this concept expanding across the Faculty of Engineering. Lessons learned from the different offerings, and strategies for ensuring the sustainability of large-scale curricular “interventions” like Engineering Design Days will also be discussed.


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