A Comparative Evaluation of Aptitude in Problem Solving in Engineering Education
Engineering education has been criticised for focusing solely on the science of engineering, to the detriment of preparing students for the practice of engineering. Graduates are considered by many in industry to be ill-prepared for real world problem solving and to have limited experience in applying their engineering knowledge to product outcomes. Instruction in design is uncommon, and where existing, follows a linear and predictable process that does not afford students opportunity for experimentation and exploration. However new engineering education pedagogy seeks to address these issues through early integration of design and project based learning into the curricula. This paper describes the initial findings of a comparative evaluation exercise conducted to measure relative aptitude in problem solving by two disciplines of final year engineering students and thus validate the impact of new engineering curricula. The evaluated students were from a typical Mechanical Engineering course and from the less conventional Product Design Engineering program which integrates industrial design studies into mechanical engineering curricula. Students’ problem solving methods were observed, the design outcomes were evaluated and participants surveyed. These exercises challenged the student’s problem framing and solving abilities and required the application of engineering science and design acumen to achieve a creative solution for either an open-ended or constrained problem. The early findings of this ongoing investigation are examined here, and the benefits of developing a creative design focus within an engineering curriculum are clearly evident.