A Case for Project-Based Design Education

David Harris
Engineering Dept., Harvey Mudd College, Claremont CA 91711, USA
E-mail: david_harris@hmc.edu

Many engineering curricula are partitioned into laboratory classes and theory classes. Theoretical lecture courses can cover the largest volume of material, but are often criticized for not engaging students, and, as a result, instilling little retention of the material. This paper contends that we teach engineering more effectively by integrating the theory with hands-on design projects. This contention, of course, is not new, yet the partition remains in all too many subjects. This paper describes an ongoing experiment of adding design laboratories to Harvey Mudd’s Computer Engineering class, historically a purely theoretical subject. It then address some of the benefits and challenges that may carry over to integrating theory with laboratories in other courses.


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