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Baldissera, P and Delprete, C (2020) From PBL to innovation: a decennial case-study from an HPV student team. Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology , 18(04), 773–86.

  • Type: Journal Article
  • Keywords: Innovation; Education practices; Project-based learning; Design team management; Human-powered vehicles;
  • ISBN/ISSN: 1726-0531
  • URL: https://doi.org/10.1108/JEDT-01-2019-0005
  • Abstract:
    The implementation of project-based learning (PBL) activities in the curricula of engineering students has become a consolidated method to improve their skills. The purpose of this paper is to share the experience acquired by the authors from a decennial case-study on a student team PBL activity focused on design and development of human-powered vehicles (HPVs). A review of the project evolution, boundary constraints and management choices could provide inspiration and suggestions to faculty staff that would like to set-up similar experiences for engineering students in their universities. Design/methodology/approach A student team was funded by the authors in 2008 to gather engineering students interested in design and construction of HPVs. In the past decade, the team has grown from 10 up to 60 students enrolled per year and stimulated to develop a range of HPV designs for sports and mobility. The project management evolved as a consequence to com ply with the growing ambitions of the group and complexity of the goals. Findings A thorough analysis of factors contributing to the success of the project led to identification of the key factors to increase student participation: persistence of the faculty staff is essential, attending competitions and challenges increases students’ recruitment and formal recognition of the activity through credits and the implementation of intermediate assessment steps increase the active participation rate. Bigger teams reduce the negative impact of recruits eventually abandoning the project in an early stage. Ambitious goals keep students motivated for longer periods and enable a virtuous circle by transferring enthusiasm and knowledge to new members. Research limitations/implications The activity is analyzed starting from a subjective experience perspective and some of the findings/conclusions may be not applicable in a different context. However, such review can suggest strategies on the long-term period to create similar conditions elsewhere. Social implications In the last part of the paper, it is pointed out how PBL projects can provide a fertile ground for innovation and lead to patents and development of new products aiming at the market. Originality/value This study contributes to provide an insight view of how a student team PBL activity can grow over a decade if guided by faculty staff.