Effects of student-customer interaction in a cornerstone design project

Christopher Williams, Erin Crede, Janis Terpenny, Richard Goff

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Similar to other first-year cornerstone engineering design courses, "Exploration of Engineering Design" at a large land-grant university features a large enrollment of students (1000+) that represent a wide variety of engineering disciplines. The instructors are faced each year with the challenge of providing a meaningful, appropriate and valuable project experience that supports learning and fosters interest about engineering design for their diverse audience. In response to this challenge, the course instructors initiated a service-learning design project as a means of achieving broad engineering design learning objectives, such as identifying customer requirements, framing an open-ended design problem, and following a systematic approach to generate and select design alternatives. Named "ROXIE" (an acronym for "Real Outreach eXperiences In Engineering), this project provides students the opportunity to work with real customers, serving as "Design Consultants" for non-profit organizations. Through their interaction with their "clients," student teams frame the design problem and work towards its solution by following the design methodology taught in class. To investigate the potential benefits of the student/customer interaction found in ROXIE, the authors compare it with an alternative design project program. Students working on projects in this alternative program ("HELP": Human-centered Engineering Learning Projects) are tasked with designing an assistive technology device. While similar to ROXIE in that its projects are centered in community service, HELP projects are speculative in nature and thus do not provide students an opportunity to work with "real" customers. In this paper, the authors perform a comparative analysis of the ROXIE and HELP projects using data from student survey responses as a means of identifying the effects of including a student/customer interaction component in a cornerstone design experience. Excerpts from student interviews and reflection essays are provided as a means of placing survey responses in context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2010
Event2010 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Louisville, KY, United States
Duration: Jun 20 2010Jun 23 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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