The multidisciplinary project (MDP) aims to teach students by means of real problems to combine and apply their knowledge and skills and to integrate these in non-technical aspects of importance and new technical knowledge. The main objects in this project are to learn to communicate with colleagues with other educational backgrounds, and to gain experience in working as a team in the thematic execution of research projects.
The multidisciplinary project is set up according to the model of project learning. The characteristic feature of the project is that students work in groups of 5 to 7 persons on a problem originating from practice, under supervision of a coach/tutor. The MDP teaches students to work problem-solving in teams. As such, the MDP forms an excellent preparation to the work awaiting the future engineers in pursuance of their profession. The problems that will be worked on can be very divergent in nature.
Assignments can be put forward by all professors and lecturers of all departments. The nature of the problems that will be worked on will be such that the problems can only be solved by a combination of knowledge from various departments present at the university. Working in a team, a group of students will have to analyze the problem that is presented to them by one of the professors, translate it into a definition of the problem, and draw up a project plan for the solution of this problem. Following the project plan, the group can then work on the solution of the original problem. Communication with people, meeting techniques, presentation and reporting are important parts in the entire process.
The MDP is focused at the beginning of the Masters phase, when students are in their 4th year. It regularly takes place within a single trimester, 240 hours each, corresponding to 8,5 ECTS credit points.
Evaluation MDP Project
Working as a group on a scientific project has been an interesting experience. In the beginning it took some time for the group members to find a way to tribute to the project. It was hard to understand the full complexity of this subject and the questions the clients wanted to be answered. The project plan gave the expression of our understanding of the problem.
In the project plan some decision points were proposed. However, during the first five weeks of the project not all the decisions could be made on the proposed dates. The decision point of the Amer gasifier unit could not be met on the scheduled date, because no conclusive data was found. The investigation of the gasifier was completed at the end of the first half of the project. Also the decision point of the torrefaction reactor was postponed for a week, because there was only literature available on lab-scale experiments. Therefore the investigation of the torrefaction reactor proved to be difficult. The reactor described in this report for torrefaction is a possible developed option by the MDP group. Despite the fact that not all the decision point were met, the deadline for the interim report, presentation and website ware met. Because no complete overview could be given, no preliminary conclusions were drawn in the interim report.
After the feedback with the client some aspects mentioned in the interim report were investigated further. The final decision point also proved to be difficult to meet, because the time required to obtain a total overview and draw a final conclusion was time consuming. This was mostly due to the problems we experienced in obtaining relevant and recent figures and data on the financial aspects. Another factor that possibly contributed was the underestimation by the MDP group for the time required to obtain a total overview of the project (although warned for this in the first meeting with the coordinator), after which could be decided what kind of information was lacking.
At the end of the first half of the project, the discussions became a more important part of the meeting, because it became clear that relevant information (described for several decision points) were lacking, or not investigated enough. This process of more discussion continued over the second part of the project, because the overall picture became more and more clear to the group. It should be noted that attempts were made during the meetings to try to discuss more on general issues where there was a difference of understanding, then on very specific and detailed differences, because this proved to be very time consuming. The use of a time schedule for the agenda of the meeting was one option, however it did not completely prevent the danger of discussing about minor details.
In the project plan a very detailed description of the investigated subjects was given, however due to lack of time not all the mentioned subjects were investigated. The deviations from the decision points, the time needed and the late discovery of lacking information for an overview and conclusions, are the most important reasons that not all aspects are totally investigated. In agreement with the clients we first tried to draw the most important conclusions on mass, energy en financial basis. For the other aspects, like exergy and emissions, no conclusive data were found for all the relevant chain elements, or no complete calculation was made.
Deadlines and communication with the clients
All mentioned deadlines in the project plan were met on time. When communicating with our clients we tried to provide them with relevant information about made decisions and the mentioned deviations from the decisions points. However, in the final part of the project, the communication was not aimed at the deviation of the project plan, but more on errors and questions concerning the conclusions of the final report.