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IMPROVING STUDENTS’ MOTIVATION IN THE CONTEXT OF FINAL PROJECTS THROUGH TEAMWORK AND HIGH-TECH PROJECTS

B. Bordel Sánchez, R. Alcarria, T. Robles

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
With the introduction of the European Higher Education Space (EHES) all students in master and bachelor’s degrees must develop, before finishing the academic program, a Final Project. In engineering degrees this final project inherits from the traditional Engineering Final Projects; although considering the new context and the required academic effort they are totally different tasks (especially in terms of innovation and scope).

As time goes, these new Final Projects have turned each time more academic and got further from real technologies, problems or projects. Thus, recent surveys show an incredible decreasing in the students’ motivation in relation to final projects, as well as some topics are totally over demanded (those that sounds more like currently required professional skills or modern technologies such as Big Data or Blockchain). Besides, the number of students developing Final Projects has gone up incredibly and tutorial time has now to be divided into a much greater group of people, so the tutorial quality also going down.

To address these problems, in the past, experiences based on Design-Thinking methodology were carried out. Although results were satisfactory, some problems related to the number of students and the regulation for Final projects have pushed us to find new and more suitable approaches to manage Final projects and improve the students’ motivation and their academic results. In this case, we proposed a new methodology were students, instead of facing a common challenge, must develop a large high-tech project. They must collaborate in groups, but each student is in charge of one independent module, which will be presented as his Final Project.

In particular, during the second term of the year 2018/19 in the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, a pilot experience has been conducted, based on the introduction of this new methodology to develop Final Projects. The experience was developed in the context of Telecommunication engineering degree. Students from all specialties were considered, although software engineers were the most important group. Projects related to robotics, Blockchain and software engineering were developed.

During this experience, students in the pilot experience (around 30% of the total students) should develop different prototypes, solutions, evaluation mechanisms and validation methodologies build a product fulfilling the requirements of the project and to ensure its correct behavior. Students will also employ professional tools for teamwork. A key element of this methodology is the teamwork. Although each student is in charge of one module, in order to get all the Final projects approved, the entire system must work correctly and meet the proposed requirements.

Results showed students were motivated to increase the scope of their Final Projects according to the requirements of real high-tech projects. Besides, academic results of Final projects also went up in a significant manner (as well as the working time employed by students to build their project).