In this paper, we present a student-centered, two-course series in mechanical design at junior level that emphasizes student self-learning of technical knowledge, communication, and problem solving in a setting full of creativity and innovation. The mechanical engineering student performance is tracked in upper level classical mechanical design courses MECH420 and MECH520 Mechanical Design I & II to correlate impact of team roles and performance on learning design skills. The first course in the series (ASST 200) is offered in Term I (the fall term of the first year) and emphasizes basic product development concepts. Set in a team environment, diverse topics such as reverse engineering and artifact dissection, sound engineering practices, ethics in engineering, and human relations are introduced. The second introductory course MECH 321 in the design series is project-centered and is offered in the fall term of the 2nd year. This course emphasizes design creativity in the context of product development. The students, in organized teams of four, tackle an open-ended engineering problem by having to design a custom micro car. The course climaxes in a 5-event contest during which these micro-cars are put to action in what is known around the campus as the Gee Whiz contest. A strong correlation was found between performance in these introductory courses and more advanced design courses. It is also found that the student role as project analyst or manager through inter-dynamics of his/her team significantly affects improved learning skills at higher level courses.

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