Discipline: Science and Mathematics Education
Bethany Fronhofer - Wentworth Institute of Technology
Co-Author(s): Sarah Schott, Louisiana State University, LA Maria Manuela Valladares and Idalis Villanueva, Utah State University, UT
In response to a national report to the President to increase the number of engineering graduates by 1 million in the year 2025, researchers have begun to explore the stumbling blocks for engineering learning and persistence. One identified block is how students’ transition from novice to experts upon execution of engineering design projects as the literature suggests that oftentimes students are incapable of making decisions, overcoming confidence barriers and acquiring the motivation to think of solutions that differ from existing ideas. In the latter, the field of design heuristics (DH) has been studied as a potential area of research to promote problem-solving skills in students. In 2009, Yilmaz and Seifert summarized the results of outcomes from studies done with industrial and engineering designers at varying expertise levels. The result was set seventy-seven cards that introduced different approaches to engineering design problems. Traditionally DH cards have been used to improve instruction, however, our research team believes that the cards can be used along with other instruments as a comprehensive research approach to identify stumbling blocks for engineering students tackling engineering design projects. The research hypothesis for this work was that identification of creative solutions in engineering student projects is blocked by adaptive and perceptual factors. Research was done on 88 freshmen engineering students, who were given a service learning design problem related to creating an efficient assembly process that would promote jobs for Down syndrome employees. Three experimental conditions were controlled: a set of students received DH cards related to their design problem (Positive); a set of students received DH cards not related to their design problem (Negative), and a control group. It was found that the use of design heuristic cards at the start of the project, initially increased creativity in engineering students regardless of the cards used. However, as the semester progressed, creativity was highest in the positive group compared to the negative card condition and the control. Closer examination of blocks showed that perceptual (ability to see the end goal of the project) and communicative (ability to communicate design ideas) deterred student performances on their projects. Future research questions will explore the role these cards had on self-efficacy (confidence in one’s ability) during execution of the project.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): I thank M. M. Valladares and I. Villanueva for their constant support. I also thank N. Fang, O. Lawanto and W. Goodridge for their insight. Funding was provided by an NSF/HBCU-UP to N. Fang and O. Lawanto and a Utah State University SEED Grant to I. Villanueva. This material is partially based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DUE 1262806.
Faculty Advisor: Idalis Villanueva,