Mechanical and aerospace engineering Program Assessment Fair to be featured at best practices symposium

Arizona State University is participating in the Strengthening Institutional Linkages Faculty Development Symposium on March 8–12, 2023, in Cape Coast, Ghana. The Program Assessment Fair for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering undergraduate programs will be a featured topic. It was created by Professor Emeritus Barry McNeill in 1998. For the last 17 years, Associate Professor Valana Wells, program chair of the undergraduate mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering programs, has been working with her industrial advisory board and academic affairs committee to use the assessment results to continuously improve the curricula of her programs. Professors of Practice Abdelrahman Shuaib and Steven Trimble, instructors for the mechanical engineering product development capstone project courses MEE 488/489, will be speaking on this subject at the symposium.

During the fair, held each spring, representatives from industry and faculty members assess each mechanical engineering capstone team project by using the seven student outcomes required by ABET, the accrediting organization for engineering programs.

Every six years, ABET sends reviewers to ASU to evaluate how well its engineering programs are meeting the accreditation’s required student outcomes.

Wells is active with ABET at the national level. She has served as a program evaluator, member of the Engineering Accreditation Commission, or EAC, of ABET, and member of the Executive Committee of the EAC. Those experiences have helped her develop her Program Assessment Fair into an effective tool for continuously improving the curricula of her programs.

Wells’s main contribution, in addition to organizing the fair each year, has been formalizing the evaluation rubrics to clarify expectations for each outcome at each level of learning. She uses the six levels of cognitive learning from the original Bloom’s Taxonomy to determine how well students are mastering each of the seven ABET student outcomes. These levels in increasing order are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. 

ABET student outcomes and ASU mechanical engineering program levels of mastery

  1. Analysis level — an ability to identify, formulate and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science and mathematics.
  2. Analysis level — an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental and economic factors.
  3. Application level — an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
  4. Application level — an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental and societal contexts.
  5. Application level — an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks and meet objectives.
  6. Analysis level — an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.
  7. Application level — an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed using appropriate learning strategies.

“We design the capstone project requirements to cover all seven of the ABET outcomes,” Shuaib says. “Students like to know what skills and abilities industry is looking for and at what level of mastery is expected. They explain in their final reports how their project demonstrates their mastery of each outcome.”

Shuaib has 24 teams of six students this year. Each team has selected a different project based on a societal need that is of interest to them. Last year, the Sanitor team developed a device for cleaning and sanitizing restaurant table tops. Team DEVILopers partnered with Pacific Scientific to develop a high-pressure test stand with safety as a major requirement. Another example is Sparky’s Mechanics, which developed a cable harness tape-wrapping machine for Northrup Grumman.

The symposium is part of the Mastercard Foundation’s Scholars Program. The three participating institutions are ASU, Ashesi University and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. ASU President Michael M. Crow along with the other university presidents and Mastercard Foundation representatives will provide opening remarks at the symposium.

Article by Steven Trimble