Doing engineering design: reflections on the active learning experience

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Dowlen, Chris; Townsend, Barney
Series: E&PDE
Section: Pedagogy
Page(s): 216-221


How do you provide engineering students with a significant amount of practical design work that has adequate links to their other studies and yet is open-ended sufficiently so that they can pose any number of solutions?

Baume [1] makes it clear that It is clear that this experience must major on the active process of doing design, it is also needs to cover both conceptual and embodiment design work as described by Pahl and Beitz [2], and to meet a particular brief.

A structural design exercise, proved over several years, has not only given students a significant initial shock, but has provided them with an effective experience of designing to meet a very specific need. It is also run as a competitive exercise, with a few clear unambiguous and objective criteria that give students an immediate feedback on their performance.

The first half of the paper will concentrate on the experience of running the exercise over the years, of how the students have coped with the open-ended nature and will demonstrate something of the variety of solutions that have been presented. Some of these solutions will be available when the paper is presented and will be able to be tested in the presentation.

The second half of the paper will be of a reflective nature, and will be concerned with the student learning experiences and how this develops their design abilities, their experience of the real world and their self-motivation as learners.


[1] Baume, D., Writing and using good learning outcomes. 2010, London: London South Bank University.

[2] Pahl, G. and W. Beitz, Engineering Design. 1984: Design Council.

Keywords: Structural design, Design projects, Active learning


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