Redesign of the Helmet Design Capstone Project
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This report is the culmination of a master’s program resulting in a Master of Arts in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) Education. The author is a veteran high school physics teacher who has participated in the ongoing development of the Engineering Design and Problem Solving Course created by UTeachEngineering and The University of Texas at Austin. As a pilot instructor teaching this course, the author has experienced the teething problems common to radically new curriculum. The trials and tribulations of a twelve-week capstone design project, that was the last engineering challenge of the inaugural year of the course, are discussed. Reasons for the module’s failure and modifications for improvement are suggested and supported by a survey of current literature. The author uses the engineering design process to reengineer the Helmet DesignCapstone Project. This report identifies the needs of the teachers and students who are, in fact, the customers of the redesign, and provides a step-by-step plan for improving the project to make it easier for the teachers and more engaging for the students. All of the instructions and material lists needed to build the testing devices and conduct the student activities are presented in detail. In this second iteration of the project, the design challenge for the students will be to evaluate the impact performance of a skateboard-type helmet and use simple tests to characterize the impact performance of various foam types. Using the insights gained by the characterization of the foam, students will design and install foam composite padding into the helmet. The engineering principle that is being stressed is the use of data acquisition for making informed design decisions, rather than trial and error testing. The report concludes with some reflections by the author about the lessons learned while developing this project and the impact they will have on his classroom practices.