Converging-diverging approach to design in the sophomore engineering clinic

Kevin Dahm, Dom Acciani, Jennifer Courtney, Chenguang Diao, Roberta Harvey, Bernard Pietrucha, William Riddell, Paris Von Lockette

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The Rowan University Sophomore Engineering Clinic is a two-semester sequence intended to teach engineering design and communication. Historically, the course has been taught with semester-long projects, one in the fall and one in the spring. An example from the fall 2003 and 2004 semesters was the Hoistinator project. Student teams of 4-5 were challenged to build a crane that could lift at least 420 pounds, using no more than 75 cubic inches of aluminum and 50 cubic inches of plastic. Teams would receive a score that was directly proportional to the amount of weight lifted, and inversely proportional to the amount of material used. The project was successful in many respects but there was room for improvement in the students' overall approach to the design problem. Students were generally successful at using statics to predict their crane's performance, but the cranes they designed and built were generally not well optimized. Many student teams chose a basic design quickly and after investigating few, if any, alternatives, and in many cases important decisions were made without a quantitative analysis. For the 2005-06 academic year, the faculty team addressed this shortcoming by providing a converging/diverging model for teaching design. Students are going through a sequence of design problems of increasing complexity: the fall employed a four week project on designing bottle rockets, a 10-week version of the Hoistinator project, to be followed by a full semester design project in the spring. Students in the fall were required to document their approach to these problems in detail, showing specific evidence of divergent design and convergent design and specific rationales for the final decisions resulting from these processes. This paper will explain the convergent-divergent design model, provide a description of the design projects, and present a comparative assessment of the effectiveness of this approach compared to the previous year's offering of Sophomore Engineering Clinic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2006
Event113th Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition, 2006 - Chicago, IL, United States
Duration: Jun 18 2006Jun 21 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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