F. Jiménez

Technical University of Madrid (SPAIN)
The ability to solve problems is a transversal skill that has been identified as crucial for an engineer. However, it is often seen that students, even in the last years of their studies, are used to solve problems of closed solution, but in many cases, they find great difficulties when dealing with open-solution problems. This paper describes three experiences involving students of the final year of Industrial Engineering Degree studies solving open-solution problems. Results are analyzed.

The first experiment was made in the subject of Construction Machinery. In it, students are provided with a set of machines on a construction site of a building. This layout has flaws that must be identified and corrected by the students. The task is performed in groups and subsequently presented in the classroom. This work has been raised over five academic years and the results are relatively good, but could be improved. Specifically, deficiencies in the original layout are commonly identified, but adequate solutions are not provided completely in many cases.

The second experience is related to organization and planning of laboratory practices. In this case, contrary to what always happens, the planning of the practical sessions should be described by the students taking into account the teacher's previous indications in which he describes the equipment to be used and the topics that have to be studied. In this case, the experience has been conducted during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years and the results have not been good, even though students have examples of practices of other subjects that could serve as patterns to follow. The main weaknesses are that students do not generally include aspects such as test conditions or how to collect and process data. The experience will be revised and more specific guidelines will be provided to students, suggesting them to follow other examples that could find, analyzing what could be used from each one.

Finally, the third experience has been raised in the academic year 2012-13 in the area of Transport Engineering. In it, problems related to transport and mobility, similar to the ones studied in the subject, are presented and students are asked to propose solutions. The work is done in groups and the following steps are undertaken:
• Analysis of the background of the problem and solutions already provided (citing references)
• Review of the solutions (strengths and weaknesses)
• Individual proposal of innovative solutions and justification of why they can improve the already proposed ones
• Reasoned critique of the solutions provided by members of the group and final justified solution.

This activity is accompanied by a session in which the teacher explains to students the methodology to be followed and tools to think critically and creatively. Unlike previous experience, the results have been satisfactory, with complete reviews of existing solutions from different points of view. On the negative side, deficiencies were found in the analysis of all the solutions proposed.

These experiences have shown that, in general, students have difficulties to deal with open-solution problems, but results show that they are able to acquire this skill with some guidance.