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Undergraduate students, having learnt to quantify the performance of specific elements of engineering objects, often find it difficult to integrate these elements into quite basic design concepts. Employers expect these engineering graduates to be able to do a great deal more than solve the technical problems taught in engineering school once they enter the workforce. To help students meet this expectation by developing real-world engineering skills as part of their engineering education, the Mechanical Engineering Discipline in Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) introduced Problem Based Learning (PBL) module for Third Year Mechanical Engineering students in 2005. This module was well respected and student feedback, both during their time in TU Dublin and after graduation once they had experience "in the field" was overwhelmingly positive.
A recent review of this teaching approach highlighted deficiencies not envisaged when the initial PBL module was conceived. Examples include students' over-confidence in the ability of their designs to solve the assigned problems and a lack of awareness of how parts designed can actually be made and assembled to form completed systems. Inspired by the Japanese concept of monozukuri significant changes were implemented in 2017. TU Dublin's Mechanical Engineering students now design, build, and test real machines within the constraints of a strict budget and time limit. Since these changes were initiated the problem assigned to students was to construct robots to perform specific functions.
This article, based upon previous work by Delaney and Nagle (2019) details the theory behind the changes and reports on specifics of the module structure. It concludes that students are overwhelmingly positive in their evaluation of the changes implemented and, notwithstanding the increased course workload, they believe they are better prepared for their future professional careers.
Delaney, K. & Nagle, G. (2019) Engineering Education through Problem Based Learning: a case study of teaching Mechanical Engineering Design in TU Dublin, Engineers Journal, Special Education Issue, December 2019. doi:10.21427/0rsq-4x20