Project-based Learning (PBL) has become a popular pedagogical tool in Engineering. Projects force students to put theory learned in lecture into practice, exposes students to some of the nonidealities of real systems (imperfect instruments, uncooperative systems, etc.) that are difficult to convey in lecture or homework, and ideally motivates students by showing how course material is related real-world engineering problems. This work discusses my preliminary and ongoing research into using Instructables.com—a user-content generated website of “Do It Yourself” tutorials—as a tool to help amplify the benefits students derive from PBL. Specifically, I require students to document their projects in an Instructable in lieu of a final report, and I encourage students to post their Instructable to Instructables.com. This work discusses three ways in which the use of instructables.com may improve PBL outcomes. First, instructables.com may improve students’ motivation for pursuing further study in the field of engineering. This belief is rooted in the framework of Self Determination Theory, which stresses the importance of a task’s “Relatedness” for developing intrinsic motivation. By using instructables.com as a motivation for project ideas and as a publication venue for project results, students can see how their work relates to work being done outside of academia. Second, by requiring students to write a step-bystep tutorial of their final project, the use of the “Instructable” format encourages students to reflect on their designs and design decisions, potentially improving student outcomes. Finally, this work briefly touches on how encouraging students to document their designs on instructables.com may lead to more interaction between the “maker” and engineering communities, thereby enhancing public awareness of the Engineering Profession.


Electrical and Computer Engineering

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URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/eeng_fac/339