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Workshop for New Lecturers: Engineering Projects Date: 30-31 January, 2007 Alan Webb Subject Centre Associate based at The University of Ulster, Jordanstown Campus. Scope of the presentation. Definition of a project type – related issues Project allocation systems

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Workshop for New Lecturers:Engineering ProjectsDate: 30-31 January, 2007Alan WebbSubject Centre Associate based atThe University of Ulster, JordanstownCampus

scope of the presentation
Scope of the presentation
  • Definition of a project type – related issues
  • Project allocation systems
  • Constructing an appropriate project brief
  • Initial meeting/s and motivating the student
  • Resources, contacts and risk assessment/s
  • Background reading and promoting reflection
  • Planning and Gantt chart requirements
  • Initial/Interim feedback and related dialogue
  • Nurture of design approaches, avoiding ‘potted solutions’
definition of project type
Definition of project type
  • Live/linked to industry or the workplace?
  • Current/topical e.g. involving ethical or sustainability issues etc.
  • Cognate with research activities?
  • Applications-orientated/Theoretical or modelling/mix?
  • Further development of a previous project?
  • Part of a larger group project?
project allocation systems
Project allocation systems
  • First Come First Serve (FCFS)
  • Merit-Based Pecking Order (MBPO)
  • Drawn From The Hat (DFTH)
  • Chase Round The Department (CRTD)
  • Matched To Student Profile (MTSP)
  • Wing And A Prayer (WAAP)

From IEEE project Fair 2005

constructing the project brief
Constructing the project brief
  • A departmental/school agreed proforma is useful
  • There should be a module description/specification with defined learning outcomes (albeit generic)
  • Background material is needed to describe the project and place it in some useful context
  • Well defined core objectives are desirable
  • Further objectives can be separately defined to ‘stretch’ the student e.g. for honours or masters level
break for a short exercise in small groups
Break for a short exercise in small groups:

Critically examine the following project briefs and identify good, bad and acceptable features, within these samples


initial meeting bootstrapping the project
Initial meeting & bootstrapping the project
  • Students are often anxious and apprehensive about the project and the supervisor/s
  • There is a need to engender interest and enthusiasm
  • If the lecturer is not full of enthusiasm, the student is unlikely to ‘catch’ the vision
  • If the project is not going to gel with the student, it is better to pass it to someone else from the outset
  • The student should leave the meeting ‘fired up’ & encouraged
facilitating the work effectively safely
Facilitating the work effectively & safely
  • Appropriate references are generally vital, if the student is to ‘get into’ the project in an effective way
  • Although the student is at a final stage, care should be taken to ensure that the Library/Learning Resource suite is being accessed including e-aspects
  • There may be a need to walk with the student to laboratories, to meet key technical staff. A journey with the student is a strong and positive signal
  • Resources should be clarified and also indicated
  • The Risk Assessment process must be initiated
establishing sound pedagogy
Establishing sound pedagogy
  • The project is primarily a vehicle through which the student should achieve Learning Outcomes
  • The project must be designed or modified as required to enable this to take place
  • The challenges embedded must be commensurate with the course/programme and level of study
  • Links with appropriate literature and underpinning theory must be established early in the cycle
  • Explicit links with other modules studied tend to be advantageous
  • A literature review is vital, to ensure that a sound project cycle gets going, in a well understood context
emphasising the importance of well structured forward planning
Emphasising the importance of well-structured forward planning
  • Development of good project planning skills is an important aspect to develop
  • It must be addressed very early and Gantt chart approaches are preferable
  • The project report is a major task for any student and the plan should include early written work which can be ‘banked’ for later editing/inclusion
  • Specialist resources or laboratory access will often need to be scheduled carefully
encouragement and direction via timely feedback
Encouragement and direction via timely feedback
  • Students want to see a mark for the first submission but they need to be encouraged to read more detailed feedback, to help them to score higher
  • The explicit link between reflection on feedback and doing better in future submissions is critical (sell!)
  • In a good course, this is well embedded by final stages and students are hungry for detailed feedback
  • Delayed feedback can cheat the student and also become a waste of academic time (aim for 2 weeks)
  • A good model is: start with positive points, be direct about weaknesses/faults and then finish with strong encouragement
break for a short exercise in small groups1
Break for a short exercise in small groups:

Examine the three draft project abstracts provided and suggest appropriate feedback comments for each example

mentoring in relation to design strategies
Mentoring in relation to design strategies
  • Design can be a major part of many projects and it needs to follow recognised models, relating to the subject area concerned
  • Students may often aim for a ‘potted solution’ as a quick fix, without exploring 3 or more options and undertaking a critical appraisal
  • Creativity and innovation should be fostered, including lateral thinking, but design must be ‘reined in’ where analytical aspects and underlying theory or models need to have academic rigour
  • Cooper, B. M., (1990) ‘Writing Technical Reports’, Penguin.
  • Cryer, P., (2000) ‘The research Student’s Guide to Success’, Open University.
  • Eisenberg, A.,(1992), ‘Effective Technical Communication’ McGraw-Hill.
  • Howard, K. and Sharp, J. A., (1983) ‘The Management of a Student Research Project’, Gower.
  • Lewis, R., (1994) ‘How to write reports: the key to successful reports’ Collins.