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Beyond the lab report: The place of student-designed research and visual communication in a mechanical engineering fundamentals course

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3 Author(s)

Student-designed research projects are more meaningful and more similar to professional experiences when they are embedded in a sequence of technical and communication tasks that approximate the evolution of a real-world research project. Instructors part of a mechanical engineering fundamentals course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology describe an innovative, semester-long student project known as “Go Forth and Measure,” which prompts students to design, propose, and conduct an original study and communicate its progress and findings through several professional genres interspersed through the term. Sound data and error analysis, effective graphic communication, and professional practices are emphasized in all tasks. Lab instructors and communication instructors, led by technical faculty, coordinate the teaching of a thoughtful sequence of activities. Approaches to teaching the deliberate crafting of the story of data - in a figure, in a research poster - are described here, and preliminary observations on student work and their experience are summarized.

Published in:

Professional Communication Conference (IPCC), 2012 IEEE International

Date of Conference:

8-10 Oct. 2012

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