Investigating Design Performance of Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Engineering Student Teams
McFarland, Matthew, Systems Engineering - School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Bailey, Robert, Department of Systems and Information Engineering, University of Virginia
While interdisciplinary teamwork and design are centrally important to modern engineering practice, many traditional engineering programs do not have interdisciplinary design collaboration built into their engineering curriculum. This gap in engineering curricula has caused disconnect between engineering education and current engineering practice. Efforts in engineering education to address this issue have resulted in the establishment of interdisciplinary engineering programs at many universities, including the Technology Leaders Program at the University of Virginia. This study aims to uncover insights into interdisciplinary collaboration and engineering design through research on undergraduate engineering students from this program, with the purpose of improving the understanding of how students become proficient at interdisciplinary design. To facilitate this goal, this study used the method of video analysis to observe both students from this program and their undergraduate engineering peers not in the program working in interdisciplinary teams on an engineering design activity.
In this thesis, chapters 1 and 2 provide context for the motivation and purpose of this research by introducing the engineering education research area, presenting the research questions of interest and explaining relevant literature and prior works relating to this study. Chapters 3 through 5 present the methodology used in the gathering and preparation of data for analysis, and the engineering design framework used in developing a coding scheme for the assessment of data. Chapters 6 through 9 present the major findings of this study and their importance to the overall purpose of this research.
Chapter 6 provides context for what happened during this study from an overall study perspective. It presents the amount of time student teams spent working across stages of the engineering design framework and across various team structures. Team structure refers to the utilization of various subgroups by student teams during this activity to accomplish work. Major findings from this chapter show activities related to prototyping and testing play a large role in engineering design with over half the time in this study attributed to those activities. Findings also show student teams tend to spend the same amount of time working in a single group as they do in some combination of subgroups. This chapter also presents a rich description for what type of activities are involved in an engineering design activity and how they relate to the engineering design framework used in this study. The findings of this chapter are important to understanding the nature of interdisciplinary collaboration and engineering design in the context of this study.
Chapter 7 builds on the findings of chapter 6 by evaluating how group composition affected the behavior of student teams in this study. Group composition refers to the makeup of student teams in this study. Each team consisted of two electrical and computer engineering students, and two systems engineering students but varied with the number of students from the Technology Leaders Programs. A similar analysis to chapter 6 is completed looking at the overall time spent working in each design stage and team structure as well as studying the frequency of activities in each of the design stages. Major findings from this chapter show the time spent in each design stage was different among teams with different group compositions. Findings also show the use of team structure varied across group compositions as well.
Chapter 8 explores the relationship between team structure and engineering design. In this chapter both overall team structure and subgroup team structures are analyzed to draw inferences about impact on engineering design. Major findings from this chapter show the choice of team structure was an indicator for which design stage a team was currently operating in. This chapter also analyzes the relationship between team structure and engineering design at the group composition level investigating the influence of varying group compositions on both areas. Findings show group composition did not influence this relationship.
Chapter 9 is the only chapter to analyze team structure and engineering design at the individual team level. This chapter studies the behavior over time of each team in reference to design stage and team structure use. It presents several patterns of navigation through the engineering design framework and team structure use. The findings in this chapter give perspective to how the results presented in chapter 6 were represented across all eleven groups. Major findings from this chapter show student groups follow several distinct patterns of behavior when working on an engineering design activity.
Chapter 10 draws on the inferences from each of these chapters to present answers to the research questions of interest and presents future work that could follow this study.
MS (Master of Science)
Engineering Education, Teamwork, Design, Interdisciplinary
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