An integrated four-year hands-on design curriculum: A case study

Emad W. Jassim, Blake Everett Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


A review of the literature supports a hands-on curricular approach as a means to improve learning of engineering concepts and increase student retention. Many institutions incorporate hands-on design courses in their curricula, but few institutions offer an integrated hands-on design course sequence for all four undergraduate years. This paper is a case study of the development of a four-year integrated hands-on design curriculum to motivate, retain, and prepare mechanical engineering students for success in their capstone (senior) design course and future careers. Over a period of ten years, a team of faculty members have incorporated hands-on design components into a sequence of five mechanical design courses, as well as an introductory fluid mechanics laboratory course. Courses in all four years of instruction (Freshman: Computer-Aided Design; Sophomore: Design for Manufacturability; Junior: Mechanical Design I and Mechanical Design II, Fundamentals of Fluid Dynamics Laboratory; Senior: Capstone Design Project) have been revised to utilize a common design process, reporting guidelines, drawing standards, ideation methods, and Innovation Studio. This paper outlines the hands-on integrated design sequence development over time, and highlights changes made to each of the courses. Assessment of student work in the senior capstone course over the years of interest suggests that students are becoming more proficient in aspects of real-world hands-on design projects and that their ability to work effectively as a team is improving. Retention is also found to increase over the period of interest. Challenges to implementation such as financial resources to support the facilities and fabrication materials, qualified teaching assistant availability, and faculty buy-in are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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