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Title: A Pilot Program in Open-Ended Problem Solving and Project Management
This research is motivated by the need for students’ early exposure to work readiness skills that promote effectiveness in dealing with complex open-ended technical problems as may be encountered in senior capstone projects or professional practice. This paper presents preliminary work in the use of building Rube Goldberg machines as student projects to foster some of these skills. Design of Rube Goldberg machines may be employed in a number of settings as a vehicle for teaching basic engineering skills. These designs require students to creatively consider a variety of unconventional approaches to solve simple problems. The Rube Goldberg paradigm allows students to communicate and to advance their ideas in a low-pressure environment where brainstorming is highly valued and where prior technical expertise affords no specific advantage. As such, projects based on Rube Goldberg machines are an effective way for freshmen and sophomore students, who may lack extensive technical skills, to acquire greater proficiency in some of the non-technical skills. This research gives results from a pilot study in project management using the Rube Goldberg model. The goal of this study is to determine the perceived efficacy of a proposed teaching vehicle for project management concepts that could strengthen the early more » stages of an existing series of Project Based Learning (PBL) oriented undergraduate engineering courses at the host institution, which currently make use of more closed-ended and single-solution design projects. In the study, a cohort of 27 engineering and engineering technology students participated in a sequence of extracurricular sessions in which they undertook progressively challenging open-ended project assignments. Each project introduced new constraints that required the students to address additional aspects of project management. Results from an end-of-year survey show that the participants had strongly positive impressions of their experiences related to these exercises. A majority of students felt that they had enhanced skills that would be valuable in professional life (96%), improved their leadership skills (92%), and had gained appreciation for the value of project planning (100%) and technical documentation (96%). It is anticipated that lessons learned from the project sequence will provide the framework for cross-disciplinary freshman and sophomore assignments in host institution’s PBL curriculum in the future. « less
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American Society for Engineering Education
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National Science Foundation
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