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Compendium of Current Practice in Laboratory Based Teaching and Learning in STEM

Starting from the year 2010, students of The Open University who enrol on the Level 5 (Level 9 in Scotland) residential school module Engineering in Action have undertaken a team project focused on end-of-life product design. This subject is of key importance in the context of the engineer’s role in sustainability, which is now a feature of all engineering programmes. The team aspect of the project also provides an important opportunity for skills development for students who normally work alone and at a distance.

The project is divided into three sessions spread across the residential school week:

Session 1 acts as a team forming and icebreaker activity and is centred on dismantling of an item of waste electrical or electronic equipment (WEEE) to enable critical analysis of its design and manufacture.

Session 2 is aimed at gathering information on design for manufacture and assembly and design for end-of-life, the waste recovery and recycling industry, and the legislative framework for WEEE. This information is used by the students as a basis for proposals for design improvements to their product to improve its end-of-life performance.

Session 3 culminates in a short poster presentation by the student teams.

Students are provided with preparatory material, which they study before attending the residential week, and notes and instructions at residential school that cover what they are expected to achieve in the three sessions. There is also additional supporting material provided through a module website, including full access to the Open University online library.

The activity is facilitated by part-time teaching staff (tutors) who are contracted for the duration of the residential week alone, working to guidance provided by the Engineering in Action module team.

The 2010 cohort of students (around 150 in number) were invited to complete evaluation questionnaires and to volunteer for a follow-up telephone interview. Questionnaires were also distributed to the 16 tutors. Further tutor feedback was obtained from direct discussions during the residential school.

The outcome of the evaluation was overwhelmingly supportive of the design and delivery of the new team project. Suggestions for improvements were received but none requiring significant alteration of the project. Many of these were implemented for the 2011 presentation and a number are being considered for future presentations.

To view the report please see Endean, M., Clay, K. and Burnley, S.J. (2013) Product re-engineering for enhanced end-of-life performance. (PDF)