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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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Scope of the presentation

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 planning

  • 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: planning

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 planning

  • 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

Questions discussion

Questions/discussion planning

References planning

  • 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.