Postprint version. Published in 41st ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference Proceedings, October 12, 2011, pages T1A-1-T1A-7.
Eight innovative senior level capstone engineering projects were completed at California Polytechnic State University (2008-present) involving (n=28) students (23 male/5 female). All projects involved the design of equipment to facilitate physical activity for people with disabilities. The effects on: i) learning design, ii) attitude towards people with disabilities, and iii) motivation to complete team design projects were analyzed through eight one-hour focus groups. This paper presents focus group findings using a constructivist approach and grounded theory to explore the overall student “learn by doing” experience. Results: (1) Approximately 19 (70%) of the students claimed the adapted physical activity project was their “first choice” given 60+ projects to rank; (2) Prior to the project only ten (35%) had experience working with people with disabilities and of those students the majority were women; (3) Twenty-six (92.8%) of the students were able to define ‘inclusion’ when asked and viewed the field of engineering as a ‘natural fit’ with project design for adapted physical activity. Students reported high levels of motivation for learning design as evidenced by the majority of engineers getting their “top” choice of projects; (4) Twenty-three (82%) of the engineers would ‘definitely’ consider a future engineering job in this sector and (5) Project challenges included: budget constraints, group communication, fabrication delays, detachment from client, and a desire for increased product testing time. Although students reported high levels of learning and motivation to complete their project; attitudes toward people with disabilities did not change significantly.
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