We report on the characteristics of our year-long Longitudinal Design Team (LDT) courses, which have been taught since Fall 1998. Our main goal in these courses is to have teams of undergraduates at all educational levels work together solving problems that involve design in biomedical engineering.
Consisting of about ten students, each team is composed mostly of freshmen, who, with the help of upperclassmen mentors and an upperclassman Team Leader, are able to use the knowledge they have gained in their introductory courses and from their life experiences and apply it to biomedical engineering problems. In the Fall semester, teams work on one or two projects, where they design, perform, measure and apply principles of physics to develop an understanding of a bio-mechanical event. In the spring, teams work on individual design projects proposed by “customers.” Faculty mentors interact with the team leaders and they decide how to proceed with their respective projects. Because the course is open to all educational levels, freshman students often reregister for the course as more upper level students. In addition to a learning environment, the design team is also a place for underclassmen to develop relationships with upperclassmen and vice versa. These relationships have proved particularly useful to the freshmen in choosing their courses, as well as in deciding summer and research plans. The upperclassmen are also learning how the knowledge they have gained in their coursework applies to solving practical problems. Although only in operation for three years, others perceive tangible results as well. In particular, the majority of customers are satisfied with the prototypes they receive. These preliminary results indicate that this unique program helps our students become acclimated to our curriculum and in preparing them for their profession.