On April 1, 2016, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation in submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Systems and Entrepreneurial Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My dissertation consisted of three different studies related to experiential learning.
The first study included the design, implementation, and assessment of an affordable and portable laboratory kit for control systems. In this study, we used a lab kit I designed in GE 320, an introductory control systems course for general engineering majors at the University of Illinois. During the 2014-15 academic year, half of the students in GE 320 used the new kit and the other half used the existing equipment. We were not able to find any significant difference in the test scores, student learning outcomes or experience within the course. A video demonstration of the kit is available on YouTube.
During the first study, I noticed that there was not a lot of consistency in the reporting of details about control systems laboratories in the literature. So, I decided to conduct a second study to find the common objectives, concepts, and components of an undergraduate control systems instructional laboratory. In this study, I conducted two different surveys of control systems faculty and industry professionals to help define the common aspects. Based on the results of this study, a panel of control systems faculty has come to consensus ratings in the following areas: 11 of the 15 learning objectives identified, 16 of the 26 concepts identified, and 6 of the 15 components of a laboratory apparatus identified. This study has also provided a list of the eight most important learning objectives, thirteen most important concepts, and nine most important components of a laboratory apparatus. Based on this information, a common framework for undergraduate control systems laboratory development has been defined.
In the third study, I compared my experience in a project management class to the skills I needed to be a project manager in the aerospace industry. The project management course I enrolled in had a unique organization. Part of my course requirements were to co-lead a team of undergraduates, who were enrolled in a second course, through a team project. Throughout the semester, my co-Project Manager and I were able to learn about and practice most skills required for project management. The project management course prepared students for roles in project management and certifications in project management.