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Self-Directed Summer Design Experience AcrossDisciplines and the GlobeCitationC. Lombardo, D. Faas, A. Uttamchandani, E. Hu. 2015. Self-Directed Summer Design ExperienceAcross Disciplines and the Globe. In Proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education(ASEE), Seattle, WA, June 14-17, 2015: ASEE-5823.Published Versiondoi:10.18260/p.24699Permanent 78900Terms of UseThis article was downloaded from Harvard University’s DASH repository, and is made availableunder the terms and conditions applicable to Open Access Policy Articles, as set forth at rrent.terms-of-use#OAPShare Your StoryThe Harvard community has made this article openly available.Please share how this access benefits you. Submit a story .Accessibility

Self-Directed Summer Design Experience Across Disciplines andthe GlobeAbstractDuring the summer of 2014, the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and theHong Kong University of Science and Technology initiated a multidisciplinary internationaldesign experience for the benefit of the student populations of both institutions. The goal of thisprogram was to create an international multidisciplinary team-based research and design projectthat included exposure to the academic and industrial environments in both Hong Kong as wellas the United States (specifically the Boston area). The Harvard-HKUST International SummerDesign Experience occurred completely outside of any classroom setting during nine weeks andwas co-located in Boston and Hong Kong for four weeks each. The reason to hold this programin both Hong Kong and Cambridge, MA was to give the students a chance to work within andexperience both campuses, culturally and geographically. The pedagogical approach was unique,as there was no embedded curriculum and students were able to freely pursue a project in a giventopic area that they were interested in. The major topic for this summer was Visible LightCommunication systems. In this paper we present the general pedagogical approach to thisexperience and provide some insights and examples of the effect the program had on students.IntroductionHarvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Hong Kong University ofScience and Technology (HKUST) initiated a multidisciplinary international design experiencefor the benefit of the student populations of both institutions. The goal was to provide studentswith the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams and to expose them to the academic andindustrial environments in both Hong Kong as well as the United States, primarily the Bostonarea. Second and third year students were targeted, as they have had at least some introductoryclasses, to provide a knowledge base to draw upon for the design project. Students were asked tosubmit an application describing previous engineering experience and their interest in thisparticular program. The program was offered during the summer, but no academic credit wasoffered in lieu of a stipend and travel expenses. One of the few requirements imposed on thestudents was that they would commit themselves completely to this design and researchexperience. We employed a multi-faceted pedagogical approach that included three distinctelements. These elements were: (1) hands-on design-build-test-refine, (2) total culturalimmersion, and (3) allowing students the independence to define goals and manage their owntime.Hands-on experiences enhance learning and satisfaction for students.1-4 The need to teach designhas traditionally been addressed in capstone courses, but there has been a push to introducedesign earlier in engineering curricula, such as through first-year introduction to engineeringcourses or through required design “cornerstone” subjects throughout the undergraduatecurriculums across the US. This is partly driven by the requirements that ABET sets forengineering degrees. ABET Criteria 3 (a) through (k) include design explicitly, especiallythrough criteria (c) and (e). The ABET criteria also implicitly include design throughrequirements for teamwork, ethics, social context, and other broad considerations. Another

driving factor to include engineering design in freshman courses is to increase student interest inengineering, improve retention, and improve results in later courses.5, 6 While ABET learningoutcomes for this summer experience were not assessed, the program certainly meets, if notexceeds some of the ABET criteria. In addition, engineering design can only be fullyexperienced with some sort of realization. Currently, there is almost no other experience that canreplace a fabricated prototype to reveal implications of design decisions while revealingcomplexities and deficiencies within a given prototype or design. Most courses fall short; theyfocus either on the front end of designs or focus too much on prototyping. This summerexperience allowed students to undergo a full design cycle, with the exception of deployment,which was not possible under the circumstance. There are also very few opportunities wherestudents can learn to communicate and think through prototyping to develop concepts, principles,and form within a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary environment. As such, the learningobjectives for the Harvard-HKUST International Design Experience, determined by theinstructional staff, are listed below along with the associated ABET Criteria 3: LearningOutcomes: Problem Identification: Identify problems with given technology (ABET 3e)Decomposition: Decompose a solution into smaller tractable sub-problems andarticulate goals (ABET 3e)Generate, evaluate, and select concepts from multiple alternatives. (ABET 3c, 3e)Prototyping: Utilize physical prototypes to make design decisions. (ABET 3b, 3e)Reflection: Critically reflect utilizing multiple forms of communication (oralpresentation, poster presentation and formal report writing) (ABET 3e, 3g)Communication: Communicate ideas/concepts to audiences in multiple cultures.(ABET 3g, 3h)Collaboration: Effectively collaborate in multidisciplinary teams of students,faculty, staff, and outside constituents (ABET 3d)During a typical course, there can be quite a bit of interaction between students with differentcultural and social backgrounds. However, these interactions are set in the context of anacademic location (in this case, Cambridge, MA or Hong Kong). Very few of the engineeringstudents at Harvard and Hong Kong, or indeed, most engineering programs, are able to completea semester abroad due to the strict and extensive requirements for an engineering degree. It wastherefore critical that cultural immersion occurred over a substantial period of time.Finally after the program staff introduced the project, the students were allowed to build theirown confidence and efficacy to the point that they could proceed independently. Afterintroducing the program, high-level design concepts, and the project's general focus, the stafftransitioned from managing the students’ time to working in an advisory capacity. This allowedstudents to develop and practice project management skills.Program Motivation and StructureThe Harvard-HKUST International Design Experience was jointly envisioned by facultymembers at both institutions to enable a study abroad-like experience for engineering studentpopulations, for whom the opportunity to study abroad is often greatly reduced due to a largenumber of curricular requirements.7 As a profession, engineering has become increasingly

globalized yet engineering students, as a population, are among those who are least likely to havecompleted an international educational experience during their college education.8 As mostdesign and analysis work within industry occurs within project teams, it seemed morepedagogically fitting for an international engineering experience to mirror a team research anddesign environment as opposed to the lecture/lab environment found within most study abroadprograms world-wide. The team-based structure also best allows the transfer of ideas andperspectives among the students. To accomplish this, the summer design experience wasconstructed as a program made up of multidisciplinary teams not only based on educationaldiversity but also including cultural and gender diversity. The instructional staff for the summerprojects selected a broad program theme, but individual teams were given the freedom to pursuea project topic of interest within that theme. For the 2014 program, the theme was visible light(wavelength) communication systems (VLC). Within this theme, the two student teams chose tofocus on two different project areas: a location determination system and a security system,which will be described in greater detail in a later section.To enable a greater degree of cultural immersion, the summer design experience was hosted atboth institutions. In this way, each group of students was afforded the opportunity to spendapproximately one month living and working within an academic institution and a culture that isdifferent from their own, as well as one month working at their home institution. Specifically in2014, the program began in June at HKUST, in which the HKUST students acted as cultural andgeographic hosts to the Harvard students. The program began with a weeklong workshop thatfocused on the design process and simple prototyping skills with the intention that each of thestudent populations would have a similar level of design competency before continuing on withthe summer long project. Fortunately, the HKUST One Million Dollar EntrepreneurshipCompetition coincided with the design workshop, so program participants could interact withcompetition teams, view their presentations, and use the competition as a focal point fordiscussions and examples illustrating the topics being presented and discussed during the designworkshop. The following week after the design workshop, the students began to explore topicsfor their summer-long project in VLC. Over the next three weeks, the project teamsbrainstormed project ideas, down-selected these ideas, and began prototyping project concepts.The instructional staff scheduled regular design reviews with the project teams to discussprogress and provide feedback. Throughout this process, the instructional staff viewedthemselves more akin to project mentors than to classroom instructors.In July, both project teams moved from HKUST to Harvard for the second half of the program.Much like the month spent in Hong Kong, the Harvard students now acted as cultural andgeographic hosts to the students from HKUST. For the duration of July, the project teamcontinued to refine and redesign their prototypes in preparation for a final presentation to themembers of the Harvard SEAS community. The final presentation included a prototypedemonstration, an oral presentation, a written report, and a discussion of the overall summerexperience, including non-technical aspects of the experience like cultural events andsightseeing. It is expected that in 2015, the program will begin in June at Harvard and shift toHKUST in July. This will afford Harvard to opportunity to host the design workshop andHKUST the opportunity to host the final presentations.As discussed above, a significant portion of the first two weeks was dedicated to design thinkingas this was one aspect of the program that the instructional staff wanted to reinforce because it

was well known that the program participants had little experience in this area. The HarvardSEAS engineering curricula is somewhat different than many engineering programs, as studentsare exposed to design thinking and methodologies early on. All of the Harvard participants havehad at least one engineering course requirement with a significant design task prior to this studyabroad experience. Within the Harvard engineering curriculum, students typically take anintroductory course on mechanical or electrical engineering during their freshman or sophomoreyear before declaring their major. These courses require a design project, but there is less focuson design thinking and methodology. This theme is continued in a required team-based designcourse taken during the junior year, in which the students are more deeply exposed to designmethodologies. Within their senior year, students are required to complete an individual seniordesign (capstone) project, in which they apply their skills and knowledge to a project of theirchoosing. The Harvard-HKUST International Design Experience is positioned so that studentscan use the design thinking and project management skills that they have developed throughoutthe summer, in addition to the introductory design project within their engineering discipline, tobetter prepare for the more advanced multi-disciplinary project courses required in the junior andsenior years. Unlike the Harvard students, the students from HKUST had little or no exposure todesign thinking and methods prior to the summer program. The skills gained during thisprogram became immediately useful to the HKUST students as these students were using thesummer program to help prepare for their Final Year Projects, which are similar to capstoneprojects at US universities.Program LogisticsThe Harvard-HKUST Summer Design Experience, like all study abroad programs, hasadministrative aspects necessary to the execution of a successful program. Early in the planningprocess, the instructional staff viewed this program as more of an internship-like experience ascompared to a typical classroom experience. As such, many of the program logistics may appeardifferent than typical study abroad experiences. Each institution had its own application processand was free to select its own students without approval of the partner institution. At Harvard,there was an information session in the February of 2014, in which the summer program wasintroduced as well as its goals and structure. An online application was open to students from allacademic disciplines that were not graduating in 2014, though given the technical nature of thesummer program, students from STEM majors were preferred. Application questions focused ontechnical skills and courses taken, prior international travel, language skills, and desire toparticipate in the summer program. The instructional staff intentionally set no prerequisites forapplication, as 2014 was the first offering of the program. A subset of candidates wasinterviewed on these topics in order to construct a well-balanced team with a diversity ofexperience, both technical and non-technical, and who would likely be able work effectivelywithin a multicultural team environment. HKUST used different metrics to select their studentparticipants, which were primarily based on academic performance and the desire to gain teambased project experience before embarking on the HKUST Final Year Projects. The timeline forthe 2014 Summer Design Experience is listed as follows: February 2014 - Information session for Harvard studentsMarch 2014 – Harvard Application due and Harvard student selectionApril 2014 – HKUST student selection

June 2014 – Program begins at HKUST, HKUST One Million DollarEntrepreneurship Competition, Design Workshop, summer project beginsJuly 2014 – Program moves to Harvard, summer project continuesLate July 2014 – Project Presentations and Wrap upAs with all summer programs, there are costs associated with conducting the international designexperience. One initial concern of the instructional staff was whether or not students wouldchoose to apply to and participate in the Harvard-HKUST International Design Experience givenother opportunities for summer internships in industry or research labs as well as other summerprograms offered by Harvard and other universities. As such, the program staff chose to take aninternship or REU-like approach with respect to program costs. Upon selection, each studentwas responsible for a 400 non-refundable program fee, insurance for the duration of timeabroad, any passport or visa fees, and transportation to/from their home institution. The programcovered round trip airfare from Boston to Hong Kong (or vice versa), room and board in studentdorms and dining facilities at each institution, and a 2000 USD (or HKD equivalent) stipendfor each student.The program staff for the Harvard-HKUST Summer Design Experience consisted of threetenure-track faculty members, two teaching faculty members, one design specialist, and threeprogram administrators between both institutions. To run the Design Workshop and enableconsistency between programming at both institutions, the program funded some of the Harvardprogram staff to be present at HKUST for part of June and some of the HKUST program staff tobe present at Harvard in July.Design WorkshopThe program was introduced with a week-long design workshop. The goal of the workshop wasto teach students a repeatable process for generating innovative solutions to human-centeredproblems. Figure 1 shows a graphical representation of the different stages of the designprocess. Students worked in small groups through exercises that guided them through the stagesof investigation, ideation, and prototyping using "divergent" and "convergent" thinking.9 In thefirst stage, students learn to "investigate" a problem area: gathering as much information as theycan about a problem and then synthesizing it down to a well-defined problem statement usingtools like affinity mapping. The next stage, "ideation," is about creative brainstormingtechniques to find innovative solutions to a problem. The final stage in the workshop is"prototype," in which students use rapid prototyping techniques to build models of theirproposed solutions that indicate the function, interaction, and character of their prototype. All ofthese hands-on activities illustrate three main points. First, design is iterative - at each stagestudents are challenged to go back to the original problem area and refine their results based onuser feedback. Second, true collaboration requires clear and encouraged communicationbetween a team, and third, a good design requires more than just technical factors - the humanneeds and economic realities of an idea must also be met.

bdivergentbrainst ormi n vestireexploloyReal Worlduser feedbackdepuser feedbackconvergenttestlduituser feedbackeleche&ssynttetezesigauaalDesign SpaceevFigure 1: The engineering design process as taught in our week-long workshop. The workshop isbroken into three stages: Investigate (green), Ideate (blue), and Prototype (red). In each stage,students are trained to start with divergent thinking (lines that head further into the “designspace”), continue with convergent thinking (lines that head toward the real world), and to test allof their design decisions by taking them back to the real world to get feedback. The iterativenature of design is also shown by the various cycles in the design.In addition to teaching the basics of engineering design thinking, the workshop served severalnon-technical but crucial needs of the program. First, the teams were arranged for the workshopso that students from both institutions could immediately start working together and developingcommon ground and teamwork skills. Thus, the workshop served as an ‘ice-breaker’ to thesummer’s activities. The workshop also emphasized both visual and verbal communicationskills, allowing all of the students to become comfortable expressing their ideas to each other.Finally, the design workshop exposed students to more than just "how" to design, it showed them"why."The final days of the workshop coincided with the 4th Annual HKUST One Million DollarEntrepreneurship Competition. While it was not initially planned, the students' attendance at thecompetition proved to be serendipitous, as they were able to immediately apply the designlessons they learned in the workshop to the contestants’ already implemented designs. Forexample, one module of the Design Workshop was about feasibility analysis while generating alist of potential solutions. In this activity, students were taught how to use dimensional analysis,the laws of thermodynamics, and proper prior art searches to determine if an idea was viableunder technological, economical, and usability constraints. Later that week, students were ableto apply their skills to several of the projects competing for the entrepreneurship prize. Theyused thermodynamic principles to evaluate a thermoelectric cooling company and found someflaws with the pricing strategy and intended market of a small-scale wind-turbine startup. Inseveral cases, the students arrived at the same conclusions surrounding economic or user-centricissues as the competition’s judges. In addition to evaluating the different entrants’ design merits,the students also had strong opinions of how each of the teams presented their projects. From theshort poster presentations to the longer business pitches, the program participants were able touse what they learned from the Design Workshop to provide constructive criticism of thepresentations’ structure, delivery, and content.Summer Long Design Projects

After the conclusion of the Design Workshop, the students were presented with the challengethat they would spend the summer tackling: Visible Light Communication (VLC). VLC is adeveloping field in which the existing lighting infrastructure is used to transmit digital data inaddition to its primary purpose of illumination.10 The emergence of low-power and affordableIndium Gallium Nitride white LEDs has only recently made this technology economicallyviable.11 Currently, VLC has been used in applications including Wireless Local Area Networks,building-to-building wireless links, spacecraft-to-satellite links, and even traffic control.12, 13 Inaddition, the faculty members from both institutions that were involved in the program had awealth of experience in photonics and VLC.Students were tasked to research the problem, learn from experts in the field, generate possiblesolution paths, iterating multiple cycles of the design-build-test-refine-present process in a periodof nine weeks. After their initial research, the students chose to focus on two application areas:miner location tracking and door security using mobile phones. All eight students in the programworked on the core technology needed to transmit and receive data using LEDs together, and twosub-teams worked on adapting the common technology to the two different applications.The students divided the common technology into analog and digital subsystems based on thespecifications they developed for both of the target applications. The analog subsystem used aphototransistor (light sensor) along with amplification circuitry to detect the transmitted data.The team had to repeatedly refine the design as they found that their original implementation wasnot robust to changes in the ambient light level. After feedback from design reviews, the designevolved to include an appropriately specified band pass filter that rejected signals outside themodulation bandwidth. This greatly improved the reliability and robustness of the detectioncircuitry.The students also designed a digital circuit and software using an Arduino microcontroller thatconverted the visible light signals into data that could be read by a computer. After consultingwith the teaching staff, the students pursued a strategy of researching potential solutions andevaluating them based on a variety of engineering factors. Students explored and learned aboutmany standard modulation schemes (Binary Phase Shift Keying, Pulse Amplitude Modulation,Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, etc.). While the staff advised using a Pugh based decisionmatrix, students instead chose to use the simplest of the modulation schemes, Binary Phase ShiftKeying, based on time management constraints. The students’ tests determined that this methodwas sufficient for their proof of concept prototype. This design decision proved an interestingexample of a compromise between the technique taught to the students and the practicalconstraints of a real design project.The miner location tracking team also had to build a VLC transmitter circuit that could drive aminer’s headlamp using similar techniques. The system communicated with a software programthat displayed the miner’s identity and location on a user interface shown in Figure 2a. The doorsecurity team had to build additional circuitry to control a door-locking mechanism shown inFigure 2b. They also wrote their own Android app that used the phone camera’s LED flash totransmit the VLC signal. The students developed a quantitative specification for how securetheir system was in terms of the mean number of brute-force (random guess) attacks the systemcould sustain before failure (a variant of mean time before failure). The students also developeda quantitative specification for the usability of the interface in terms of both the number of inputs

(button presses, swipes, etc.) and the total amount of time it would take the user to unlock thedoor. At the end of nine weeks, both groups presented to members of the SEAS and HKUSTcommunities with the final prototypes shown in Figure 2.Figure 2: a) Miner Location Tracking via VLC (left) and, b) Door Security using Mobile Phonesand VLC (right). Photo Credit: Eliza Grinnell (left) and Tian Zhang (right).Program AssessmentSelf-efficacy refers to individuals’ judgment of their capability to organize and execute coursesof action for a given task.14, 15 It is believed that a combination of cognitive (personal goals, selfevaluation of performance, and quality of analytical thinking), environmental (level of challengeand circumstances under which the act takes place), and behavioral (choices that are executed)factors all contribute to self-efficacy.16 Higher levels of self-efficacy have been correlated toindividual students setting higher standards for themselves as well as an increased ability to copewith obstacles. At the completion of the summer program, student feedback about theirexperience was collected. There were a total of eight participants, four from Harvard and fourfrom HKUST. The two female participants were from Harvard. There was an approximatelyeven split between mechanical and electrical engineering students. Most students indicated thatthey were interested in international experiences before applying.First, the participants’ responses to the ten self-efficacy questions from the pre- and post-selfefficacy test were compared. There were no significant differences between the men and womenin terms of their average self-efficacy score (female 63.33 18.86, male 74.00 3.74). Bothgroups reported improved average scores after the program (female 86.67 6.29, male 86.67 5.15). The largest gains were made by the women in the group in the category construct aprototype (pre 45.00 21.21, post 80.00 0.00). In addition, there were no significantdifferences in self-efficacy dependent on institution (Harvard 68.89 13.15, HKUST 73.70 2.80). Both groups again saw an improvement in their average self-efficacy scores (Harvard 88.61 4.29, HKUST 84.07 5.25). In addition, the Harvard group experienced the biggestgains in constructing a prototype (pre 57.50 25.00, post 82.50 9.57), whereas the

HKUST groups gained the most in redesign (pre 63.33 5.77, post 83.33 5.77). There areno significant differences between the majors (Mechanical Engineering n 4, Applied Math n 1, Electrical Engineering n 2).Lastly, students were asked whether they changed their views of pursuing graduate degrees aftergraduation. There is no significant difference between the pre-self-efficacy measures andchanges in views towards graduate school, F (2,7) 0.48, p 0.789. This may indicate that selfdirected opportunities during the undergraduate curriculum can be viewed as supplemental, butnot necessarily as a way to introduce graduate research habits. Since the students were notworking with any graduate students. Figure 3 shows students’ self-efficacy scores before andafter completing the summer program (n 7).EngineeringDesignSelf- 00DesignProcessFigure 3: Self-Efficacy scores before and after the program. There is no significant difference(n 7).Student FeedbackMost of the student feedback centered on lifestyle, not necessarily on the technical details of theprogram. Overall, students were highly satisfied with the program and would like to see theprogram extended beyond 2 months. Some students expressed the desire for more advising ormentoring during the project, which was particularly true for more of the HKUST students. TheHKUST students in particular would have liked to see an introductory session to inform theparticipants of the specific topic before the summer. The Harvard students most enjoyed theinternational exchange portion when asked about the summer experience, while the HKUSTstudents enjoyed the technical aspects of the program the most.

Program RevisionsHaving completed the first offering of the Harvard-HKUST International Design Experience, theprogram staff has examined some areas for future improvement. This program was only offeredto four Harvard students, which represents less than 2% of our engineering student population.If the instructional staff hopes to have a material impact on the more than a few students peryear, a way to sustainably scale up this summer program in conjunction with other internationalexperiences needs to be considered. At this point in time, students are not given course credit forthis program. One option that could facilitate the scaling of the summer program could be tooffer course credit for this summer experience in which resources typically used for academiccourses could b

The Harvard SEAS engineering curricula is somewhat different than many engineering programs, as students are exposed to design thinking and methodologies early on. All of the Harvard participants have had at least one engineering course requirement with a significant design task prior to this study abroad experience.