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Interviews with TCU Students About their Research
Can you describe your research and findings? 0:03-0:25
Can you describe the tool? 0:25-1:03
Were you in a group? 1:03-1:28
What was your job as Project Lead? 1:28-1:48
What’s the finished product? 1:48-2:01
How did it feel to be done? 2:01-2:11
What was your favorite part of the project? 2:11-2:38
Did your group have an advisor? 2:38-2:52
Did you have to get the parts approved? 2:52-3:34
What was the most challenging part? 3:34-3:54
What was your biggest takeaway? 3:54-4:13
What advice do you have for the next class? 4:13-4:34
Anything else we should know? 4:34-4:40
Comments from Mentors
"The project described by Jamie was part of TCU Engineering’s senior design experience 2015/2016. We were fortunate to have a local sponsor, GE Transportation, Fort Worth, TX. Specifically, we were tasked with designing and building a tool to automatically tighten four bolts to a specified torque as part of installing IGBTs onto the locomotive engine. The process was previously done one nut at a time, by hand, using a torque wrench.
The project team size was fifteen students, with Jamie being the project leader. My role as project faculty advisor was primarily a technical advisor, but also included mentoring the team members. Project leads are elected by their peers at the end of the spring semester prior to starting the project in the fall. In most cases this means that some natural leadership tendencies have been demonstrated to their fellow students. The real development of the project leader, however, comes during the yearlong project. In the broader sense, my mentoring is directed toward assisting team members from being an engineering student to being a practicing engineer. The project leader has the added task of learning to be a technical project manager.
The mentoring process helps the project leader understand the variety of communication networks that have to be in place. This includes communication with the project sponsor, as well as the intra-communication among the team members and their groups, and intercommunication with faculty resources, machinists, and TCU purchasing. In Jamie’s case, and with most project leads, the communication with the project sponsor required a lot of work. The tone and form of these correspondences changes as the relationship develops, but the professional respect toward the sponsor always has to be maintained and it’s not always obvious to the students how this is done. Documentation is also critical and has to be learned. This includes writing meeting summaries, documenting the many decision processes, and documenting design ideas through detailed drawings that are subsequently used by the machine shop. Project leaders have to manage team dynamics, including the diffusing of inevitable disagreements among team members. This requires developing interpersonal skills, which allow for the creation of a work environment such that each person’s productivity is maximized. As faculty advisor I occasionally have to reiterate to the entire team that the project leader and the subleads are also learning how to do perform those jobs and to exercise some patience with their leadership.
The mentoring of the project leader and the team is a process. It takes time because learning requires making mistakes, being corrected, feeling dumb sometimes, developing a sense of when it’s time to admit an idea is not working, etc. We also recognize that students learn best through failure. A mantra we have in senior design is “fail faster, succeed sooner” (David Kelley, founder of IDEO). The yearlong project course within TCU Engineering gives our students a chance to experience this learning process. By design, this is a key element of the transition experience from engineering student to practicing engineer. It’s unique among engineering programs and is an essential aspect of producing the TCU engineer! I’m honored to be part of this process."