Experience With PBL Shared Across Multiple Courses

Experience With PBL Shared Across Multiple Courses

T. Steiner, C. White, R. Hadgraft (2012).  Experience With PBL Shared Across Multiple Courses. 12.

The Micro Aerial Vehicle Design Build and Fly (MAVDBF) Challenge was introduced in 2010 as a motivational and unifying learning platform for students in the second year of the aerospace engineering program at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). The project was conducted across three courses being delivered in the second year of the program in order to help students integrate learning in design, systems engineering and aerodynamics.

This paper describes experience of the MAVDBF Challenge during 2010 and 2011.

The project was associated more strongly with the systems engineering course rather than the design course for reasons that were primarily practical rather than philosophical. In addition to enabling integration of learning across distinctly different but relatable sub-discipline areas, assessment of the varied elements within the MAVDBF Challenge entailed allocation of marks equivalent to 60% of the total assessment for a standard 12 credit point course.

The allocation of assessment for the project was 25% of total assessment for Systems Engineering (Preliminary design, Validation, Peer assessment), 25% of total assessment for Aerodynamics (Aerodynamics analysis and design report), 10% of total assessment for Design (development of model in CATIA). This quantum of marks provided enough encouragement for students to dedicate an appropriate amount of time to the project – commensurate with the allocation of marks it was anticipated that reasonable project outcomes could be achieved by students working in teams of five with each student contributing a total of 30-45 hours to the project, which represents about 60% of the total non-contact student hours for a standard 12 credit point course. It is worth pointing out that the majority of marks for each of the three contributing courses were allocated to conventional assignments, tests, and examinations, which subsequently proved to be a source of student dissatisfaction.

The MAVDBF Challenge was the first such multi-course project conducted by the School of Aerospace Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at RMIT, and it was intended to demonstrate an alternative educational approach that could be employed in other courses. The project was successful in creating motivation for both students and staff, and enabling deeper learning of content through application and integration. Research in the following year in relation to a new incarnation of the Challenge showed that whilst student motivation and enjoyment were again at high levels and student opinion expressed a preference for this kind of activity, there was a sense that the assessment reward was not in proportion to the effort required.


Authors (New): 
Tom Steiner
Caleb White
Roger Hadgraft
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia
Boeing, Australia
Project based learning
Systems engineering
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