Author: Ed Morrison (Page 1 of 2)

Designing a new web based platform for undergraduate research

We had a remarkable session yesterday. Based on commitments of two weeks ago, faculty members invited some students, and they really changed the dynamic of 30 minute Strategy Sprint. we are currently exploring how to design a web-based platform to expose undergraduates to research opportunities within Mechanical Engineering.

Designing a wire frame

The first step is to outline a “wireframe” of the web platform. Identifying the categories of content we want to include. At the same time, we want to and characterize the “look and feel” of the site. In this way, we can provide the designer with clear guidance. Chris Goldenstein has already contributed a good wireframe on which we are building.

Videos of students for students

Our student team members brought up the importance of sharing the experiences of undergraduates. We outlined how we might create some videos, based on the experiences of students who have seen the value of research. These videos could also provide a clear explanation of what is involved with research.

Got ideas for videos? e-mail

Capturing the right look and feel

We need a web platform that has the right look and feel. Engaging. Useful. Fast. Right now it takes real digging to find out what faculty are engaged in research. There’s no easy way for students to identify research opportunities. (There may be a good model for us to copy from Discovery Park, though.)

Organizing research with categories and tags

We are also working on the categories and tags that we will use to organize the site.  Arezoo has suggested these categories

  • Acoustics and Noise Control
  • Bioengineering
  • Combustion, Energy Utilization, and Thermodynamics
  • Design
  • Fluid Mechanics & Propulsion
  • Heat Transfer
  • Manufacturing and Materials Processing
  • Mechanics and Vibrations
  • Nanotechnology
  • Robotics
  • Solid Mechanics
  • Systems, Measurement, and Control
  • Thermal Systems

Next steps

We left the 30 minute Strategy Sprint with five groups of action steps:

  1.  identifying websites that might be models for the look and feel that we are trying to design;
  2.  defining the groupings of  research activity across  Mechanical Engineering;
  3.  identifying students who might be willing to share their stories through videos;
  4.  connecting with Pi Tau Sigma’s  research person; and
  5.  developing initial ideas on marketing.

At our next Strategy Sprint, we will bring in our web designer to begin developing  an  ME research website for undergraduates.

Outline of our wireframe: ME research for undergraduates web site.

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Experimenting with faculty office hours

Peter Meckl has been running a small scale experiment on faculty office hours. Here’s what we’re learning. Peter simply changed the location of his office hours from his faculty office to the Commons. While it did not increase the number of students engaged, the quality of Peter’s conversation with students improved significantly.

Peter observed that his conversation with students moved beyond the specific problem in class to include broader discussions. In addition, when two students showed up during the last session, they began to work together on a problem. In other words, by simply shifting the location of faculty office hours, we learned that we may be able to improve faculty interaction with students (and student interactions with each other).

Of course, there are logistical issues to scaling this approach. Not every faculty member can hold office hours in the Commons. However, it may be possible to designate an area of the Commons for faculty/student interactions. And, of course, there may be other locations outside of faculty offices to hold faculty office hours. We are starting to figure out how to map other available locations.

In complex systems, small changes can have large impacts. In chaos theory, that is the so-called Butterfly Effect. We may have stumbled upon one.

 wireframe drawing

Here’s a rough outline of the wireframe drawing we are developing for the ME research for undergraduates site.

Undergraduate Research: The barriers

There’s an invisible barrier between faulty and students. We get that. It’s what we are trying to overcome with re|course: the distance between faculty and students.

Thomas Siegmund

Thomas Siegmund presented in ME290 today, and he learned again that students see a high barrier to reaching out to faculty and even starting a conversation about undergraduate research opportunities.

So how do we overcome this barrier?

The students suggested that faculty come to them in regular classes and present their research. By taking a few minutes inside the regular class schedule,  students can learn about faculty research interests and begin exploring what interests them.

A web research hub will be helpful, but not enough

So, this insight is important. It suggest that making faulty research interests available though a new ME research hub will help, but it will not be sufficient.

Faculty can do more by coordinating among themselves and setting aside relatively small slivers of class time to expose students to related research underway by ME faculty. We’ll take these insight back to the re|course Undergraduate Research team. These insights will help us as we design our experiments to figure out what works to expand undergraduate research experiences.

How we help student organizations grow stronger?

Christian Sorensen is a PhD student with ME. (You can see his LinkedIn profile here.)  In our Strategy Sprint yesterday he asked an important question.

How could re|course teams help our student organizations to grow and prosper?

Well, the short answer is we have no idea. So let’s explore. Our first challenge is coming up with a list of all the student organizations. Then, we need to listen for some  really good ideas about how we could collaborate.

There’s a virtuous cycle the Christian suggested  we develop.

If we can get more faculty more involved with student organizations, chances are student organizations will attract more students. And if we attract more students, will attract more faculty.

In other words the whole system will become more vibrant.

The challenge course is figuring out where to start.

As a first step, we are compiling a list of student organizations.  Here’s a snap shot of the white board we took after yesterday’s session.

If you want to help,  please connect with Ed Morrison (

Designing a research hub: Who’s doing what research

Who is doing what research?

How can I participate?

It turns out these very simple questions are not very easy to answer.

So, our recourse team for Undergraduate Research has come up with an idea.

Why not design a Research Hub specifically for undergraduates so that they can explore the research opportunities available to them?

Research skills take time to develop. So it makes sense to start early in your undergraduate career. But until you have a  map with some guideposts, it’s easy to get lost and frustrated.

Chris Goldenstein’s thoughts on a wireframe for the research hub

Right now, the world of undergraduate research within ME is difficult to navigate. We can make it a whole lot easier by coming up with a web design that is accessible, flexible, and easy to update. We’re looking at designs like this one: highly visual, fast to load, easy to explore.  All built on a WordPress platform.

In our last Strategy Sprint, we began to explore wireframe for this new research hub. Here’s that wireframe idea that Chris Goldenstein came up with.   As you can see, Chris suggests that we organize the site around research opportunities by undergraduate class. In this way, the faculty can help guide undergraduate students on the type of research experiences that build off of one another. We can also use a system of categories and tags to make research projects easier to find.

This is just one idea. There may be others.

If you’d like to help us out, please contact Ed Morrison at

Got musical talent?

Here’s an idea. What if faculty and students started to share their love of music? What would that look like?

Well, the idea has sparked Tahira Reid and some others to explore how we could provide a venue for faculty and students to share their musical talent — during the day.

The initial idea is Ten Minutes of Talent on Thursdays: T3.

Here’s how the prototype would work. In April, on Thursdays, between classes, interested students and faculty would give very short — 10 minute — performances between classes in the Hollander Atrium.

Are you game?

We need your thoughts and guidance to make this idea work. Please connect with Tahira ( ) or Ed Morrison ( if you’d like to lend a hand.

Mapping undergraduate research opportunities

One thing is clear.

No single person has an understanding of all the research opportunities are available to ME undergraduates.  The situation is not really satisfactory to anyone.

Students can’t  easily identify research opportunities, if they’re interested. Faculty are put in the position of simply responding ad hoc to student requests  to participate in research.

The “system” is confusing and fragmented.

How can we make it more clear? How can we make it more productive? How can we provide students with valuable opportunities to learn research skills?

These are all the questions that our re|course team on undergraduate research are tackling.

If you’d like to help out, contact Ed Morrison at the Purdue Agile Strategy Lab:

Who’s involved in this team?  Well, a lot of faculty:

What happens when we lose the faculty office?

As we currently arrange faculty office hours, they don’t work very well. So what would happen if we lost the faculty office? We are launching a couple of experiments to find out.

Peter Meckl

Peter Meckl  launched the first one. He simply announced this class that is office hours would not be held in his office but in the common area on the second floor.

Here’s what happened.

A student came up  (a student  who normally comes to office hours) and sat next to Peter to discuss a specific problem. After about 20 or 30 minutes, the second student came up.

Then something interesting happened. The conversation shifted. It wasn’t about the problem in class, it was about the experience of co-op education. In other words, by simply moving the conversation out of the office, Peter thinks that the conversation became more informal, more helpful and meaningful to the student.

That’s what re|course is all about. Expanding the connections between students and faculty outside the classroom. We  can learn more from each other that way.  Peter is going to continue his experiment.

And he’s got another idea. 🙂

Q: What does faculty + students + lunch equal?

A: ME Power Lunches

re|course is about expanding the learning opportunities for faculty and students outside the classroom.

Everyone has to eat. Right?

So how do we use lunch is an opportunity to expand faculty student interactions?

An obvious answer is for faculty to invite students out to lunch. The problem is that idea doesn’t scale very  easily. There’s so many faculty and so many lunch hours. Too many constraints for one-on-one lunches.

But what if we made an effort to convene lunches around topics that would interest students?  What if we designed the lunch so that there’d be a least one faculty member for every 10 students? What if we limited these sessions to 20 students each, so we could have some time for quality conversation?

What if we focused on topics like the following:

  • How we get a job?
  • What’s the best way to approach a job fair?
  • How do I make a presentation to a prospective employer?
  • What’s the package of materials I need to have two impressive employer?
  • How I handle a lunch or dinner with a prospective employer?

These are just some of the topics would come up with. They’re probably dozens of others. Guang Lin came up with these.

What ideas do you have? Take a moment and suggest a topic for an ME Power Lunch.

Why research?

What is the value of undergraduate research experiences to undergraduates?

Good question.  The best people to answer the question are probably other undergraduates who have had research experiences.

So we are on a hunt. We’d like to video undergraduates who had research experiences that they’d like to share with their colleagues. We will capture a 2 to 3 minute video in which you can explain what you found interesting or valuable in your research experience.

If you’re interested in participating, contact Ed Morrison (


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