In the virtual internship RescuShell, students play the role of interns at a fictitious mechanical engineering design firm, RescuTek. Interns assigned to the RescuShell project are asked to develop the legs for an assistive mechanical exoskeleton which will be used by rescue personnel in dangerous or demanding situations.

Students review technical reports and conduct background research using documents based on actual experimental data. After these tasks are complete, they develop hypotheses based on their research, test those hypotheses in the provided design space, and then analyze the results, first individually and then in teams.

All activities take place online, so students can log in using any computer or tablet with Internet access. Students communicate with the members of their project teams and with their design advisors using built-in chat and email, and they record their activities and reflect on them in an engineering notebook.

Students become knowledgeable about consultants within the company who have a stake in the outcome of their designed prototypes. These consultants value different performance metrics. For example, the marketing strategist is most concerned with profit margin and safety, while the kinematics expert is most interested in payload and agility. During the last days of the internship, interns present and justify their final design selections.

RescuShell is optimized for use with advanced high school students and lower division college students. It takes approximately 15 hours to complete.

Further Reading

Chesler, N.C., Ruis, A.R., Collier, W., Swiecki, Z., Arastoopour, G., & Shaffer, D.W. (2015). A novel paradigm for engineering education: Virtual internships with individualized mentoring and assessment of engineering thinking. Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, 137(2).

Arastoopour, G., Chesler, N.C., & Shaffer, D.W. (2014). Epistemic persistence: A simulation-based approach to increasing participation of women in engineering. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 20(3): 211-234.

Arastoopour, G., Swiecki, Z., Chesler, N.C., & Shaffer, D.W. (2015). Epistemic Network Analysis as a Tool for Engineering Design Assessment. Paper presented at the American Society for Engineering Education. Seattle, WA.

Arastoopour, G., Shaffer, D.W., Swiecki, Z., Ruis, A.R., & Chesler, N.C. (2015). Teaching and Assessing Engineering Design Thinking with Virtual Internships and Epistemic Network Analysis. Paper presented at the Harvey Mudd Design Workshop. Claremont, CA.

Arastoopour, G., & Shaffer, D.W. (2015). Epistemography and Professional CSCL Environment Design. Paper presented at the International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Gothenberg, Sweden.

(Note: If you use any products, services, or data developed or provided by EGG/GAPS—including virtual internships and epistemic network analysis—in your research or in any publications or presentations, please read our guidelines for acknowledgment.)

UW UW NSF This work was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (DRL-0918409, DRL-0946372, DRL-1247262, DRL-1418288, DRL-1661036, DRL-1713110, DUE-0919347, DUE-1225885, EEC-1232656, EEC-1340402, REC-0347000), the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The opinions, findings, and conclusions do not reflect the views of the funding agencies, cooperating institutions, or other individuals.