Freshman/sophomore design projects provide students with hands-on experiences in conceptual design and manufacturing. For some of these courses, a design competition is used to teach the design and construction components. These competitions are often reused from semester to semester, so the students typically suffer from design fixation. When design competition tables are erected new every single semester, it requires advanced planning and high budgets. This paper discusses a case study of a different structure for introductory design courses and competitions at Harvard. We summarize a yearlong effort to improve an existing early design competition with more machine component elements and linkage design. The goal of a interchangeable design competition was to prevent design fixation while at the same time providing boundaries for students to successfully implement their robot designs, independent of their previous mechanical engineering exposure.

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