Engineering design has been a requirement in the curriculum for engineering accreditation since the mid-90 s. This emphasis on engineering design has introduced significant changes to engineering curricula in freshmen and senior years with many engineering programs offering capstone (senior) and/or cornerstone (freshmen) design courses. Yet design-related content and experiences in the second and third years of the engineering curricula remain less common due to the heavy emphasis on fundamental engineering science courses in the middle years. This study investigated the possibility of developing design ability (thinking, process, and skills) in one of these courses. The method used was to incorporate real world, open-ended problem solving, specifically authentic engineering problem centered learning (AEPCL), into a junior-level heat transfer course. AEPCL uses authentic engineering problems (AEPs) as the backdrop to develop students' design abilities through solving open-ended, ill-structured problems. Results indicate that students who experienced AEPCL showed better design abilities than comparable students who did not experience AEPCL. Through AEPCL, students learn how to collect better information, make more reasonable assumptions, engage in better processes, and arrive at a more plausible, error-free, and high-quality solution in engineering design.

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