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Abstract: Context: Transition into the university learning environment is an often difficult challenge. An effective transition into university study can have a strong impact upon students' later success - by establishing clear expectations of the university environment, and by connecting students to their peers. In the CSU Engineering context, this transition is potentially further confounded by the nature of the degree program. The curriculum includes neither lectures nor exams; the cohort has been deliberately selected to promote diversity of backgrounds and experience. As a result the "typical" expectations of a university degree do not apply, and even have the potential to be counterproductive. This non-traditional context thus requires a non-traditional approach to orienting students.

Purpose: This study examines a method to incorporate all students' effort in an integrated multifunction project - the construction of a Rube Goldberg Machine. The purpose of the paper is to show how the approach improves student engagement in an authentic process with a formal final exhibition. In particular, the orientation process is intended to highlight the distinct expectations of the CSU Engineering degree program.

Approach: The first assessment task for all CSU Engineering students is the construction of a Rube Goldberg Machine. This paper reports on the experiences of the inaugural student cohort with this project, and on their resultant skill development and engagement with their degree.

Results: From the very first moment of the project, students understood that they participated in an integrated, interdependent project, where a deficiency in any step can potentially cause the whole project to fail. As a result they were forced to accept responsibility not only for their own work, but also for the work of their colleagues, leading to a greater sense of shared responsibility and cooperation throughout the cohort, which in turn helped establish social networks throughout the student cohort. The necessity of delivering to a fixed schedule also promoted unusual levels of resilience to change amongst the students, adapting well to changes in expectations throughout the course of the project.

Conclusions: Students' engagement in their first project was substantial; during the first two weeks of their study in the university, they knew each other in a professional environment, which caused a smooth transition to university. Requiring students to interact with other team members resulted in both self-awareness and social awareness of the composition of their cohort. In addition to a rapid adaptation to the university environment, they faced important issues in the management of projects such as time management, risk management and team leading and participation.

To cite this article: Mahinroosta, Reza and Lindsay, Euan D. Rube Goldberg Machines as a transition to university tool [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 484-490. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=683809856430279;res=IELENG> ISBN: 9780994152039. [cited 29 Apr 17].

Personal Author: Mahinroosta, Reza; Lindsay, Euan D; Source: In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 484-490. DOI: Document Type: Conference Paper ISBN: 9780994152039 Subject: Engineering students--Attitudes; Engineering students--Psychology; Engineering--Problems, exercises, etc.; Engineers--Professional ethics; Risk management--Planning; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) CSU Engineering, Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences, Charles Sturt University
(2) CSU Engineering, Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences, Charles Sturt University, email: elindsay@csu.edu.au

Database: Engineering Collection