Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

WERA Conference,

Tokyo, Japan

August 2019


Engineering design is a complex subject and 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. Upon entering the workforce engineering graduates must be able to do a great deal more than solve the technical problems taught in engineering school. To help students develop 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) for Third Year Mechanical Engineering students in 2005.

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 lead author's experience of monozukuri, the art of making, through his employment in Japan and numerous visits there, significant changes were implemented in 2017. Based on the Japanese concept of monozukuri, Mechanical Engineering students now design, build, and test real machines within the constraints of a strict budget and time limit. For the last two years the challenge assigned to students was to construct robots to perform specific functions. This paper analyses the experience to date and shows 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 careers.