Mechanical Design Fundamentals Studio 1 is the first studio experience for Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering students. It demands the practical application of theoretical knowledge, tasking students to work in teams to construct a robot for an optimally enriching studio experience.

Sprints guided by formative feedback

The 12-week semester is divided into 3-week sprints, where students submit work, receive feedback and make iterative improvements. In Agile methodology, a sprint is “a set period of time where all the work is done.” This compels students to achieve set milestones within short periods.

At the end of each sprint, teams engage in Design Review sessions where they briefly present their project progression, underline decisions and explain feedback that guided design choices. Though crucial in the assessment journey, the initial 3 review sessions are non-weighted, and are designed to gauge progress and identify improvement areas.

Teams receiving ‘not yet novice’ evaluations and constructive feedback during initial reviews are offered opportunities to refine and re-present their work in following sprint review sessions. The concluding sprint review in week 12, however, is contributing to the grade, necessitating the integration of feedback from all preceding reviews

Portfolios for showcasing and reflection

Individually, students submit an Engineering Design Portfolio at the end of the subject which contributes 100% of their grade. The portfolio showcases 4 artefacts that map students’ individual learning journeys within the subject, and showcase their engineering design and decision-making processes.

In addition to the portfolio, students also develop their critical thinking skills through maintaining an Engineering Design Journal. This not only allows them to reflect on their studio subject experiences but also in becoming lifelong learners. It also aids in preparing for interview questions that delve into their soft skills, offering a dual advantage in academic and professional development.

Guidance is provided throughout the semester on portfolio preparation through formative feedback and indicative grades on design exercises and journal entries which are submitted at the end of each sprint. 

The portfolio was carefully designed and communicated to students as a tool to aid them in their search for their first internship, beyond just serving as an assessment piece. As such, it functions both as a means for us to assess their technical proficiency and acquired skills, and a resource for the students to seek initial internships or capstone supervisors. This may motivate students to produce showcase-worthy work, which would result in more engaged efforts from the students.

This case study was showcased at the recent event ‘Effective Feedback for Assessment Tasks: Strategies for Student Engagement and Success.’ Read more about this event’s keynotes, presentations and a student panel in this wrap-up by Behzad Fatahi.

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