Course Reviews from E5 2006

Here are the student responses to survey questions asked after the Fall, 2006, Engineering Methodology course, in which student groups worked together to create an electric guitar that could be played by someone with no hands. There were 30 students enrolled in the course.

What were the goals of this course?

Creative problem solving!

I want to learn more about engineering and get a rough idea about what is engineering.

To introduce High School grads who most have had no formal engineering education to the many aspects of engineering.

To explore what engineering is about.

Figuring out what type of engineering one liked, learning matlab, learning how to work in groups and learning how to work with machinery.

To understand more about the hands on elements of Engineering.

To see if I wanted to do engineering.

Introduce me to engineering.

To give a broad overview of the types of things engineers do, based on a hands-on project and the accounts of speakers.

To expose students to the goals and processes of engineering.

Learn about different fields of engineering, intro to engineering.

Know engineering better; learn something new.

Introduce to different aspects of engineering.

To feel out the subject area of engineering.

Learn more about what an engineer does.  Find out if engineering is for me.

Provide an experience to simulate the problem-solving process and work in shifting groups.

I don’t know, probably it was to give us a glimpse into engineering.

To experience a little bit of the engineering program at Swat.

Learn a little bit about engineering.

Learn about engineering, meet fellow engineers.

To review the different basics of each area of engineering.

To build a guitar that would be playable by someone without hands.

To explore the fundamental problem-solving methodology of engineering.

I. Has this course helped you learn to use any tools or techniques to solve problems?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

2.69 (n = 26)


Designing the plungers from syringes was an eye-opener.

It is a interesting course. However, I found that I haven't learn much about engineering as I expected.

I feel that while we learned how to accomplish specific things concerning the guitar, we didn't learn any widely used general techniques.

Not really. i have taken applied science course and robotics at highschool so all this was not very challenging for me.

How to use Matlab, different mechanical leverage systems, how solenoids work.

If there was something we don’t know and can’t determine, we can qualify it and still have the result work out.

The only thing that I feel I took away from this class is a knowledge of how to use the machine shop, and a connection with Smitty.  This class also affirmed my love for Engineering.  However, I don’t feel as though I learned any techniques to solve problems.

It feels like the course was geared towards Matlab (not the actual project, but the assignments).  It turned a lot of people away from the subject.

Learnt a bit of Matlab, but too little for me to apply it.  Teamwork experience is valuable, though.

Matlab, computer programming, soldering.

Starting from nothing – and even knowing nothing (about programming) – and building from that forced me to be resourceful and confident.

II.   Has this course helped you learn to collaborate better with others?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

2.26 (n=27)


Trading information between groups was challenging, but worthwhile.

Any time one is involved with such a group oriented class, one learns how to better collaborate with others.

i did not like a certain person in my group and because i HAD to work with her it helped me learn how to work with difficult people.

Collaborating at the end of the course was largely non-existent because we had other work to do.

Communication between systems in different labs was difficult. Also, when one person posted the group info on our site, another group member could not add to that page themselves.

Three sub-group experiences definitely made me more aware what makes a good team.

It was necessary to work with other people and other groups to complete the guitar.

III.  Has this course helped you learn to design an engineering system?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

2.22 (n=27)


The overall process is much clearer now.

I think we learned more about engineering a guitar and not as much about general engineering.

Learned about how different parts of a system must be developed and then integrated.

I had no concept of designing an engineering project, so everything was an improvement.

Dealing with both the right-hand interface and mechanism, I worked a lot with one system, and I would’ve liked to do more with other systems.

Define an engineering system.  However, if an engineering system is any system which finds a way to do something, then I would say “2.”

Guitar project/ tennis ball project.

How to work on various parts of the system, and then integrate.

Especially learned the skills for building (machine shop).

Sub-system, yes.

Guitar, tennis ball slingshot.

IV.  What level of effort do you think you gave this course?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

2.44 (n=27)


Engineering is something I've never considered to be work, I've had and still have a passion to do it and put in more than the minimum amount of time always.

I feel like it didn’t give it my all because i wasn’t able to build things in the middle of the course. i didn’t really know how to use matlab so i wasn’t able to participate during the middle of the course.

I think I often turned things in (part on website) kind of late.

Toward the course’s end, E5 took a backseat to everything else.

When it came to the projects, I really worked hard, but when it came to the Matlab problem sets, I really didn’t understand them past what was required to be turned in.

My effort when down as the course went on, to be frank.

It was not as much work as my other classes, but I put a lot of effort into what we had to do, though.

I never was able to get very excited for it.  I was interested.

The time I spent in the designated course time I put in a solid effort – aside from written assignments, I did not put in much time.

V.  Did the workload of the course meet your expectations?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

1.92 (n=26) with one “Not applicable” bearing the comment “I had no real concept of how much work I would have for this or any other course.”


There wasn't much work outside the main project, which is what I expected from a half credit course.

I think the work load was appropriate.

Matlab assignments were long and tedious, but other work seemed light.

More than I thought it would be for a ½ credit.

Workload seemed about right for a half-credit course.

VI.  Were the guest lectures worthwhile?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

1.77 (n=26)


Honestly, it was a little too much trying to take in a new aspect of engineering every week; I think less topics would have been better.

Some of them were boring and others were really interesting. i think overall they were useful.

Most of them were confusing and provided only hazy notions of what work they do.

Youngmoo Kim stands out as a really interesting guest.

The industry visitor’s lecture were the most interesting part of the class to me.

I thoroughly enjoyed a lot of the lectures.

I really liked Youngmoo Kim.

I really enjoyed Youngmoo Kim’s lecture.

Youngmoo Kim was my favorite, but I found all interesting.

Especially guest lecturers opened my eyes to the different topics in engineering and what the real world applications were.

It was interesting and informative to learn about the different fields of engineering.

VII.  Did you enjoy learning how to create and modify a website?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

2.04 (n=27)


At first, I felt really excited that I can create a website bu I gradually got sick of it.

I felt powerful with my own website, I would have liked to learn how to use dreamweaver more though.

It has been the single most valuable thing I learned in E5.

Really interesting, useful.

Very useful skill, although something I had never done before, so I’m very glad it was included.

My favorite part of the course.  It will be the most useful in the long term, I think.

It was sometimes stressful.

I had done HTML work in high school.  I did enjoy learning how to use Dreamweaver.

Not particularly.

It was useful to learn but sometimes tedious to get everything to work.

VIII.  Should an activity like the "Tennis Ball Shotput" be included in the future?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

1.41 (n=27)


This was an excellent way to get acquainted. The dramatic launch was a great frosh experience.

It's a very interesting project.

The shotput was a great kickstart to the semester and fun little thing to ease back into school.

i think it was a good "orientation" project to the course.

Honestly, it was more of a joke.

That was really fun and good for teamwork, getting to know people.

Good intro project, although a short discussion afterwards of the results would’ve been nice.

Teaches you a different way to think about solving problems.

Very fun.

That was fun.

It might have been helpful to have the extra time to work on the guitar.

It was fun and I felt like I learned a lot about optimal design.

I found that a very useful introduction.

Good intro to basic method and got everyone excited about the course with it being a competition.

It can be included if there can’t be a more interesting project.

Good way to meet other engineers in your dorm, nice intro to a more-involved project.

IX.  Did you find the lectures on engineering contexts to be interesting/useful?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

2.16 (n=26)


It is helpful but not interesting.

Glad to hear clarification on what different subfields of engineering concern.

I really enjoyed this part.

Inarticulate speakers.

Yes because it showd me more what specific engineering disciplines were.

It teaches me that engineering is more than technical excellence. Knowing context is great!

They were useful for learning about engineering, though not always thrilling.

X.  Did you find the lectures/discussions/assignment on ethics to be interesting/useful?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

2.35 (n=26)


I would enjoy more discussions of ethics in a small group format, if possible.

Loved this too.

I did not think they were that necessary for the class.

It was material that had come to mind, but I had never put much thought into it.

Enjoyed the ethics and morals discussion essay.

It makes me look at engineering as a profession.  Its importance makes its ethics especially crucial.

Ethics will be incredibly important when we enter the field of engineering.

XI.  Did you find the lectures on Matlab to be interesting/useful?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

2.81 (n=26)


More instruction by faculty or student helpers might be useful.

I am still a little lost in Matlab and hopefully will get on track during E6 next semester where I hear it is taught more in-depth.

My first introduction to computer logic of any kind.

Quite useful, and it was good to have a sheet to refer to while programming.

I didn’t find lecture to be the best method to learn programming.  The ** were better.

I was just lost during the lectures.

I had trouble following some of this.

I had never used it before and you did well to teach from the beginning.

Sometimes difficult to follow without any background knowledge not being familiar with the language.

I learnt too little to feel it is useful and interesting but I know it is supposed to be useful.

Useful, yes, though not particularly interesting.

XII.  Did you find the musical instrument project interesting/worthwhile?

1 = Very much; 4 = Not at all; 5 = Not applicable

1.41 (n=27)


It was awesome!

It was interesting in that there was a potential customer in mind as well as a feasible, however difficult, end goal.

It was fun, but frustrating.

Really cool project, really interesting and exciting.

The project was awesome, I loved the idea.

I really enjoyed the style and the final project.

It is pretty cool, I have to admit.

It was lengthy but thought-provoking.

Interesting goal, worthwhile.  Good to touch on different topics in engin – programming, mechanics, etc.

The project is interesting in the idea.  But lots of frustration can be better controlled by improving coordination and holistic planning.

Fun, a good application of engineering, though it would have been better if the class met as a whole to talk about it more often.

XIII.  How would you change the amount of shop training time in E5?

1 = increase it greatly

2 = increase it somewhat

3 = keep it same amount

4 = decrease it somewhat

5 = decrease it greatly

2.07 (n=27)


The students seemed to appreciate the hands-on training.

Even though there isn't enough staff for this, I feel that it would be best if we learned while we were making the parts of the guitar instead of Smitty showing us once and then we would have to remember how to do it afterwards.

i thought it was over-the-top because you cant really learn how to use a machine without doing it yourself. i mean some people were not even listening.

Integration with shop class would be cool.

I really would have like to spend more time in the machine shop.

Give us more projects which would require the machine shop.

Specifically, knowing where basic tools such as screwdrivers, calipers, etc. would have been useful.

I wish I would have learned more in terms of how to do stuff in the shop.

More practice.

Mostly because I enjoyed it.

Two of my projects were programming so I only used the workshop about two or three times.

Working on the groups I did, I was unable to spend much time until late in the semester.

Can we have systematic training?  For example, with a guidebook.  Often time, we ask Smitty for things that are considered common sense in the machine shop world.

I did not spend much time in the shop, but I think I am an exception.

XIV.  How did the student helpers' evening study sessions in Hicks affect your experience this semester?

1 = very positively

2 = somewhat positively

3 = no effect

4 = somewhat negatively

5 = very negatively

6 = did not participate in any evening sessions

eight 1’s, five 2’s, one 3, and thirteen 6’s.


They are passionate and willing to help you. I enjoy the study session.

They didn't just give you the answers or solve them for you, they made you learn

They were quite helpful, especially with Matlab.

It was easier to relate to students than professors.

They were very helpful.

Betsy was wonderful.

Very helpful to get advice from them, meet engineering students, and work with others.  They were also a hughe help with our project.  Taylor was great with helping with programming.

(from the one 3) No effect for this course, but very helpful for physics work.

(from one of the 6’s) Maybe I should have attended them.

Matlab was the only thing I might’ve needed help with, but working in groups was sufficient to figure things out.


Please use the space below to write any additional comments about the course, if you wish.

I think E5 should be a full credit course that meets twice a week plus a lab, and that the time could be spent doing two major projects instead of one, with more defined deadlines. There should be less topics covered in the class, substituted by brief allusions to those other topics for the future. It should also be a requirement for the major (if first condition is statisfied) so that everybody in the major can get to know each other having to take E5.

For the guitar project, I think it is useful to have a whole-class discussion on the main structural design and the main mechanism.  We zoom too quickly to subsystems.  For example, why must we follow the shape of a real guitar?  Why must the strings be equally spaced.  These assumptions limit our creativity.  The guitar resembles a real guitar more than it has to.

This course was a lot of fun.

Keep it up.

A satisfying class.

It would be a good idea to have another class project next year, though maybe something other than a guitar.  Also, it would have been nice to have more interaction with everyone in the class rather than just people in your lab.


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last updated 9/2/07