Industrially based engineering group projects
New trends in higher education are pushing towards approaches in which new material must be gradually appreciated by students through an iterative updating process, so that life-long self-learning is stimulated after graduation. However, tutors tend to train students in order to meet targets, especially when facing large cohorts. This “spoon-feeding” attitude refrain undergraduates from learning independently, even after their first year at the University. This presentation describes the implementation of a design assignment for second year engineering undergraduate students, in which the tutors acted as supervisors giving continuing support instead of providing instant solutions. In a way, students assumed the role of Engineering consultants, while the lecturers acted as clients presenting a real problem that needed to be resolved (in essence, to increase efficiency while reducing cost on a specific installation, by means of integrated engineering systems design analysis). The assignment was divided into two independent (yet, related) components. The first one, an introductory part, was meant to lead-in, particularly in terms of identifying constraints which limit design options. The second one, a large group task element, was innovative and used strong challenging industrial elements. By assigning students into large groups (7 elements), all groups had elements from diverse backgrounds, which is in line with the University commitment to attain the gap between Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) and White students. Also, emphasis was put into teamwork rather than on individual achievement, since students not performing as well on their tasks would create bottlenecks during data collection.