Four the past four years, I have taught the sophomore level course, Agricultural Engineering 243 Material and Energy Flows in Biological Systems each spring semester. During the first offering, I used the lecture method to transmit information, and homework assignments and exams to reinforce skills and test comprehension. The greatest weakness of this technique seemed the lack of hands-on experience which I gave my students, and their subsequent lack of physical intuition. Enhancing their physical intuition drove the first curricular revision—using in-class demonstrations and simulations of key physical and biological processes. This technique did not work as well as expected, probably because it continued to rely on a source-sink model of learning, with myself as the fount of knowledge. Therefore, increasing student involvement and fostering student maturity drove the second revision, consisting of the inclusion of two team design experiences, and the addition of more student-led problem solving during class time. This second revision was very rewarding, achieving a >95% attendance rate over the semester, and strongly positive student evaluations. By making engineering design central to the class, student maturity and student interest were increased, and their educational needs better served, than in the traditional lecture format. At the time of this writing, the third revision of the course is underway. I am now distributing printed class notes to transmit technical information, and relying on problem sets, quizzes, a semester long design project, and student initiated discussions to reinforce the material. Again, the non-lecturing, design focus of the course appears to be achieving high student attendance and interest. These experiences have convinced me that incorporating engineering design into lower division engineering courses enhances student learning and can make the teaching of engineering more fun.
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