Co-student artefact production to integrate practice and theoretical learning in workshop spaces

Anne Nortcliffe and Alex Day
Sheffield Hallam University

The practical element of an undergraduate engineering degree is an important aspect of their education. Blummenfeld, et al (1991) highlights that a Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach enables students to discuss and research problems and solutions. PBL also;

  • influences student’s motivation and interest (iBid; Matveev & Milter, 2010;Chen, et al., 2010; Goldman, et al., 2008);
  • equips students with skills needed to be competitive in a diverse workforce, (Pomales-Garcia & Cortes, 2012; Specht, 2015)
  • enables students to excel (Rosenfeld, 2016)

One way to incorporate the practical aspect and increase student interest is to build an “artefact”, enabling students to externalize their understanding, take greater ownership, influenced by creative freedom and control of the build, (Blummenfeld, et al., 1991).   As Benjamin Franklin said,

“Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I learn”.  

Carlson & Sullivan (1999) demonstrated a learning environment that supports design and construction increased student retention. Pan, et al.( 2009) emphasised that Production Practical Training in Engineering (PPT) is important for generating engineers fit for practice, especially their workshop ability.   Bryant, et al. (2009) highlighted that blended learning including hands-on learning had the potential to facilitate learning retention.

This paper presents the research and design of an aerospace-related artefact -a model landing gear- for students in their first year to manufacture and assemble. The primary objective was create an artefact that would develop their knowledge and understanding of engineering practice, manufacturing and materials through the production of the artefact using the engineering workshop facilities. The paper will also show how it can then be used across first year modules to complement teaching of subjects including systems, design and mechanics. Furthermore it will be embedded in the second year of the aerospace engineering course to support learning of subjects such as structures and avionics.

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