ETH Focus Projects – Successful Approaches for Project-Based Education in Engineering Design
DS 78: Proceedings of the 16th International conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE14), Design Education and Human Technology Relations, University of Twente, The Netherlands, 04-05.09.2014
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Arthur Eger, Wouter Eggink, Ahmed Kovacevic, Brian Parkinson, Wessel Wits
Author: Marius, St
Institution: pd|z Product Development Group Zurich, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
In the third year of the mechanical engineering bachelor programme, ETH Zurich offers so called Focus Projects as an integrative and intensive project-based learning course in product development. In this course type, interdisciplinary teams of typically 5 to 10 students in mechanical and electrical engineering and industrial design develop a product from the market profile to a tested prototype. From ten years of running Focus Projects and refining the course concept, three valuable approaches in coaching have been derived to increase learning and team performance. The presented reasons underlying the three approaches shall help engineering educators understand the importance of these approaches and give guidance in applying them on their own projects. The first approach is factual and experienced feedback through extensive testing, which enhances the learning experience. The physical experience of the working of the own design adds meaning to the theoretical knowledge and thus leads to its manifestation. The second approach is value-based coaching, focussing on the values responsibility, transparency and open feedback. This helps the students grow not only on a knowledge level but as a person as they build self-confidence and learn collaborative behaviour. The third approach is the application of a question-driven stage-gate process. It gives the student teams the freedom to experiment and still enough orientation to reach a successful project outcome.