Quickly Building Students’ Confidence in their Fabrication Abilities
Frey, Daniel D.
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CitationFaas, Daniela, and Daniel D. Frey. 2013. “Quickly Building Students’ Confidence in their Fabrication Abilities." In the Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE13), Atlanta, GA, June 23-26, 2013: ASEE-5823.
AbstractUndergraduate mechanical engineering education usually places a high priority on design experience. Such courses serve to enhance student interest in engineering, improve retention, and improve results in later courses. A challenge to implementing early design experiences in engineering programs is the readiness of the student population for hands-on design work. One of the main obstacles the students face is the lack of fabrication experience. This typically leads students to begin work too late. This has been referred to as “time scallop”- as deadlines are approached, effort levels rise rapidly and fall back to low levels repeatedly. A problem motivating this paper is that students seemed hesitant to use machine tools despite previous introductory training including mills, lathes, saws, sheet metal cutting and bending. In this course, each student is expected to conceive, design, build, and operate a robot to carry out a specified set of tasks. This paper describes an activity that allows students to quickly build and test a robot within a 3-hour time frame. This robot, called “Mini-Me” serves most students as a starting point to build a more complex machine later on. Surveys indicate the activity builds students’ confidence in their fabrication skills and that the gains are largest for female students. This work shows the benefit of giving students smaller subtasks to reduce anxiety about not having adequate skills to design and build a robot. This activity has enabled students to extract key concepts and the students felt more confident that they could complete a more complex robot. Overall, student’s self-reported knowledge of servos, motors and using manufacturing equipment increased based on survey results. The activity described in this paper has had a large impact on overall manufacturing confidence and course outcome for students.
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