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Project Based Learning for 1 st Year Engineering Students. Keynote Address International Symposium for Engineering Education 2008 Dublin City University Dr Brian Corcoran: School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Mr John Whelan: School of Electronic Engineering.

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Project Based Learning for 1st Year Engineering Students

  • Keynote Address
  • International Symposium for Engineering Education 2008
  • Dublin City University
  • Dr Brian Corcoran: School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Mr John Whelan: School of Electronic Engineering

The Great Egg Race

  • Professor Heinz Wolff ordering three colour-coded cardigan-wearing teams to 'solve a fiendish engineering problem'. This inevitably involved the use of clothes pegs and bike pumps.
  • Broadcast on BBC2 from 2nd January 1979 to 12th Sept 1986
  • Total of 68 episodes in 8 series

1st Year Redesign 2006

  • To move to a common first year across both Engineering Schools
  • Complete redesign of all first year programmes

EM106: Laboratory and Project Work

What Type of Project???

  • Olin College's curriculum is built around hands-on engineering and design projects. This project-based teaching begins in a student's freshman year

Objectives of EM106 Project Based Learning

  • Objectives of the module
  • Support the transition from Leaving Certificate to 1st year of college
  • Develop skills in design, manufacture and assembly
  • Encourage staff student interaction and team work in 1st year
  • Encourage problem solving skills in 1st year
  • Develop formal and informal line of communication with 1st years

EM106: 1st Year Football Match

  • ‘All 1st Year Students must compete in a soccer match at the end of Second semester’
  • To compete in this match they must
  • Design and build a remote controlled device using a limited supply of parts
  • The device must not exceed the size of an A4 sheet of paper
  • The device must cup and kick the ball
  • The ball size will be that of a golf ball
  • The pitch size will be 4m*3m

Project Based Learning for 1st Year Engineering Students Parts List

  • RC receiver
  • Servo (2 required)
    • one for steering
    • one for cupping ball
  • Solenoid for kicking ball
  • Motor Speed Controller

Student Up-Skilling in Semester 1

  • The Class (currently 120 students) complete individual and team tasks
  • Semester 1: Mechanical Workshop Skills (weeks 1-6)
  • Individual Task
  • Build a model plane
  • Reading drawings, Marking out, drilling, filing, tapping
  • Mechanical Drawing (weeks 1-12)
  • Pencil and paper
  • Electronic Design (weeks 7-12)
  • Soldering, PCB assembly and E-CAD circuit design
        • Labs, Lectures and Presentations (weeks 1-12)

Student Up-Skilling in Semester 2

  • Semester 2: Build Phase (weeks 1-10)
  • Teams build their final design
  • Devise work plan and assign tasks
  • Tech support and guidance given in a well equipped workshop facility
  • Labs, Lectures and Presentations (weeks 1-12)
  • Lectures on recycling, ethics and design
  • Poster presentations given to a public audiance
  • Competition and Assessment (weeks 10-12)
  • 1st event is an individual assessment. Score 5 goals
  • Elimination match for 5 mins
  • Final project report submitted in week 12

Learning Outcomes for Project Based Learning

Students will be able to

  • Solve practical engineering problems using basic scientific knowledge
  • Use computer packages to write technical reports, create spreadsheets, make presentations and publish work
  • 3. Use computer aided design (CAD) applications to create engineering drawings.
  • 4. Use IT skills and software for learning, sourcing and presentation of material.
  • 5. Will have the ability to plan and complete a project on time.
  • 6. Will have the ability to work effectively within a team to achieve a desired objective

Resources and Logistics for Project Based Learning

  • Initial set up costs: Workshop areas
  • Mechanical Materials
  • Electronics Kits
  • Staff Inputs: Substantial staff student interaction
  • Contact time cannot be overemphasised
  • Complex timetabling (within both schools)
  • Website: Timetable changes
  • Groups and assessments
  • Labs and equipment: Flexible rooms and flexible equipment usage
  • Public Areas for Presentations and Events

Project Based Learning Issues

  • No formal exams: Therefore increased CA
  • Considerable informal staff input throughout the year
  • Timely feed back required on a regular basis
  • Passenger issues (Mentors)
  • Lack of contribution within a group (Self Regulation or Staff Intervention)

Positive Outcomes of Project Based Learning

  • Increased Level of Staff / Student Participation and Interaction
  • Excellent BUZZ throughout the year
  • Limited inputs required to achieve major outputs
  • Exceptional interest and engagement of students at and early stage
  • High success rate in this module. Not just to pass the exam
  • Excellent group work and ice breaker for 1st years

Project Based Learning



  • Goff,R.M. and Gregg,M.H., ‘ Redesigning of a Freshman Engineering Program for the new Millenium,’ ASEE Southeastern Regional Conf, April 6-8, 1998, Orlando, Florida.
  • 2) York, S.C., ‘Providing early design/build opportunities to Freshman Engineering Students’, ASEE 2002 Annual Conference and Exposition, Montreal, Quebec, Canada June 16-19, 2002
  • 3) Guizzo, E., ‘The OLIN Experiment’, IEEE Spectrum, Pg 23-28, May 2006 (
  • 4) ‘Educating the Engineer of 2020’, a report by the National Academy of Engineering,
  • 5) O Hayden, G. and Fox, E. ‘Work in Progress- A freshman Course for Engineering and Computer Science Students’, 34th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Oct 20th-23rd, Savannah, GA, 2004