Guiding engineering design experiences through use of portfolios and rubrics
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The engineering mathematics course described in this report is designed to employ project based learning (PBL), using projects to teach and reinforce both mathematics and engineering concepts and applications in a hands-on format. One project involves building a bridge and allows students to conduct testing using standard procedures and to manufacture components with set cross-sectional areas and lengths in an assembly-like manner using a low cost material such as file folders. The students can use a free computer-aided design (CAD) program to facilitate the design as well as conduct virtual testing with no additional cost. The mathematics concepts covered by this project include: graphing, tables and trend analysis, determining the forces acting on individual joints as well as the overall structure, study of cross-sectional area versus length in determining the best support structure, evaluation of various materials for construction, and using measurement tools and technology to determine the amount of stresses and strains and the amount of deflection. All of these studies should enable the student to produce a scale diagram for the final bridge design and to conduct tests on the bridge structure in order to determine the factor of strength (weight held versus the weight of the bridge). The project addresses the use of portfolios as a means for documenting work and changes that have been undertaken during the design process. The use of a portfolio-based project enables the student to document with artifacts and written composition, how the design was determined, how testing was done, and overall lessons learned during the project. The portfolio then could be evaluated using a Design Process Rubric as a means for transferability of credit.