Yves Bellouard

Manufacturing technologies – reverse engineering

Microengineering , 3rd year Bachelor

Aim: to propose students to work on a real world example to deepen their understanding of the different manufacturing technologies – and ultimately avoid the risk of learning by heart a list of processes

Methods: inquiry based approach, Socratic questioning, active interaction

The following script is going more in details in Yves’s course. It gives every information required for a professor to reproduce a similar project.

What the course is about: the main idea of the course is to create an opportunity for students to actively engage in applying what they learn from theory to practice. The Reverse engineering course is given to third year Bachelor students in microengineering and it is composed of theoretical and practical parts.

The theoretical part of manufacturing technologies is very broad; there are many aspects, concepts and processes that can be taught and this can often end up being difficult for students to conceptualise and apply in real life situations. Furthermore, due to a large number of processes that the subject involves, there is a danger that the course will become a long list that students learn by heart and forget after finishing the exam. In order to avoid this, two main interventions were taken into consideration:

  1. Selecting the theoretical concepts that are most important
  2. Developing the practical part of the course to support understanding theory

The practical part of this course is developed in a way that student groups choose an object from their everyday life and dismantle it in order to understand how it is manufactured. The approach contains several dimensions that support student learning, including student engagement, sense of discovery, student agency, fun in learning, and from the teacher side – partnership in learning.

Engagement, discovery and agency

An important aspect of the course is to get the students curious about an object they see in everyday life. This brings in their engagement and taps into the sense of discovery, which are highly important for student learning. By having to choose the object on which they will learn, students also feel they have agency in what they will learn in the course, helping them establish a control over their own learning process. 

As they progress through the weeks of the course, students discover the links between the vast manufacturing processes and the object that they have to analyse. This helps in bridging theory and practice, as well as solidifies what they learn as they are directly applying it in practice. 

An additional aspect of the course is that, by having to dismantle everyday objects and analyse them through applying theory, there is an element of game or fun for students. Associating learning as a pleasurable, fun activity, makes students desire to learn more simply because they are having a good time while doing so. 

Role of teacher as a partner in learning

The important part in the course design is the role of the teacher. As students select a wide range of objects, not every object is familiar to the teachers in terms of what processes have been put into the manufacturing. Therefore, the teacher needs to adapt from one student group to another and act more as a partner in the process of discovery, rather than as an authoritative figure that knows a priori about the object.

In this way, the teacher can expose the scientific method of formulating hypotheses, testing and validating them, and model the thinking logic that students can apply. From the student perspective, seeing the teacher engaged in what they are doing and understanding how the teachers apply what they teach in reality is an important factor for stimulating learning. When teachers present themselves as partners in a learning situation, they provide an implicit example of lifelong learning which is necessary for students to embrace as a competence.