Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Yucheng Liu


applied mathematics, engineering education, engineering outreach, mathematical models of learning, Project-based learning


The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of utilizing the principles of Project-based learning (PJBL) in nontraditional settings in engineering education. There is ample literature related to the usage of PJBL techniques in engineering education but there are also challenges with incorporating PJBL within the curriculum. It is the aim of this dissertation to build upon this understanding of the advantages and limitations of PJBL in engineering education and identify areas within the existing body of knowledge in which more research is needed. This dissertation divides this topic into 4 sub-topics. The first sub-topic explores how PJBL can be utilized in non-classroom settings and is detailed in Chapters 2-4. In Chapter 2, the application of PJBL in engineering outreach is explored. It is found that through PJBL learning challenges, high-school age girls can be exposed to engineering disciplines in a positive and supportive environment where girls and women are promoted. This chapter details the format of the event ‘Parent Daughter Engineering Night’ as well as lessons learned and practical methods to create an event based upon PJBL methodology that reduces stereotype threat and increases belonging. Chapter 3 describes operation and management of an on-campus center designed with PJBL methodology. This chapter describes the benefits to the University and the community through detailed examples of projects as well as provides lessons learned in project selection and student intern management. Chapter 4 identifies 10 maxims of promoting creativity in engineering education that have been identified by Kazerounian and Foley. This chapter addresses each of these maxims by providing an example in the ways in which PJBL can be used as an explicit means of developing creativity in engineering students. The next subtopic is how PJBL can be utilized in non-traditional classroom settings. Chapter 5 describes a PJBL challenge that can be used in a virtual learning environment that functions to bridge course content in one project by including elements of manufacturing processes, material science, and applied statistics. This chapter presents the PJBL challenge as a case-study and highlights key learning outcomes that can be achieved. The next subtopic is intended to examine how PJBL is supported by theories of learning. Chapter 6 describes existing theories of learning and provides 6 different mathematical models of learning that are then evaluated using tools of applied mathematics. In this chapter, strengths and weaknesses of each model are considered as well as the future need to evaluate a learning model with empirical data. Lastly, the final sub-topic highlights the ability of PJBL to function as a tool to promote social change. Chapter 7 describes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the responsibility of educators and future engineers to address these goals. In this chapter, examples are provided of explicit ways in which PJBL can serve the dual purpose of promoting engineering education through the completion of projects that are intended to support or promote the SDGs.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Engineering -- Study and teaching.
Project method in teaching.

Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright