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A Capstone Course in Engineering Analysis for Mechanical Engineers

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Capstone Courses and Project Based-Learning

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.18.1 - 24.18.13



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Paper Authors


David R. Sawyers Jr. Ohio Northern University

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David R. Sawyers, Jr. is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio Northern University, where he teaches courses in general engineering and in the thermal sciences. He received a B.S.M.E. degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, both in mechanical engineering, from the University of Notre Dame.

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A Capstone Course in Engineering Analysis for Mechanical EngineersMuch of the undergraduate engineering curriculum is designed around subject matter courses,such as Statics, Circuits, or Thermodynamics. While significant effort may be applied to thedevelopment of problem solving skills within these courses, the perspective of the students istypically bound to the subject being taught. As a result, students often have difficulty inapplying methods learned in one class to the solution of problems in another class, just as theyoften have difficulty in seeing the interconnections between different subjects.This paper describes a course which focuses on problem solving across a wide range of (math-based) problems encountered by mechanical engineers. ME-4511 Engineering Analysis wastaught for the second time in the Fall of 2013 and replaces two Junior-level courses in analyticaland numerical problem solving. While the compression of two courses into one has necessitatedsome reduction in content and requirements, it has also offered greater opportunities sincestudents in their final year of study have a wider range of prerequisite courses from which todraw. The course includes some lectures, including a review of ordinary differential equationsand an introduction to numerical methods - but a significant component is the assignment of“extended analysis problems.” In some cases, these problems require students to apply familiarconcepts, such as Newton’s Second Law of Motion or the First Law of Thermodynamics, but ina way that goes beyond the problems typically seen in an introductory Dynamics orThermodynamics course. Other problems require students to apply concepts from multiplecourses. Some of the problems are ambiguous or poorly defined, requiring additionalassumptions or clarification in order to obtain a well-posed mathematical problem. Throughoutthe course, emphasis is also placed on adequately citing references, validating solutions, andcommunicating results. Student work was assessed primarily through evaluation of writtenreports, although each student team was also required to present their solution to one of theextended analysis problems, and a self-assessment survey was conducted at the end of thecourse.

Sawyers, D. R. (2014, June), A Capstone Course in Engineering Analysis for Mechanical Engineers Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19910

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