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A Common Design Build Test Project Incorporating Freshman And Senior Undergraduate Analysis Skills

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Capstone Design I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.17.1 - 13.17.13



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Paper Authors


Michael Plumley US Coast Guard Academy

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LT Michael Plumley is on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard and is a faculty member and 1998 graduate of the Mechanical Engineering program at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy where he has served as course coordinator for a variety of subjects including Machine Design, Heat Transfer, and Modeling and Control of Dynamic Systems. He holds Masters of Science degrees in both Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Connecticut. His previous assignments included service as shipboard engineer and port engineer.

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William Palm Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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William J. Palm IV is a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former Lecturer of Mechanical Engineering at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He has a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.S.M.E. from Penn State. He worked for several years as a design engineer, holds four patents, and continues to consult for the product design industry.

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William Simpson U.S. Coast Guard Academy

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Dr. William M. Simpson, Jr. is a faculty member in the Engineering Department at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He has a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering form the University of Maryland, a Masters in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering form Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Bachelor of Science from the U. S. Coast Guard Academy. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Connecticut. He served on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1965 to 1992 and had assignments in Marine Safety, Naval Engineering, Acquisition, and Research and Development.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract



In depth discussion is presented on a project created to develop student appreciation for engineering analytical skills developed during a four year Mechanical Engineering program. The unique project, which required students to lift a floating weight out of the water using a floating machine of their own design, was developed and used in a concurrently run freshman statics course and a senior machine design course. Encouragement of student interaction between seniors and freshmen was used to emphasize how much students had learned over the course of their undergraduate study.

Students in each level were given a similar need statement. Advanced students were given less background information, fewer constraints, and assigned more deliverables which allowed more room for design failure. The goal was to demonstrate that designs may be constructed without significant analysis yet greater insight can be derived using analytical tools.


The motivation for this project was the observed reluctance of many students to applying analytical concepts covered in previous courses to their design projects. The authors observed students often expressing frustration over the replacement of what they considered fun, calculation free, design projects in lower level courses with calculation intensive projects in upper level classes. The earlier projects, aimed at increasing student interest in engineering, were often free of analysis requirements. Some students commented that calculations prevented flexibility and creativity. They seemed to translate this into a lack of applicability of their analytical courses to practical design, or at worst to a cruel ‘bait and switch’ on the part of academia. The goal of this project was to give students a greater appreciation for analytical tools developed in different courses.

Mechanical Engineering students at the US Coast Guard Academy follow a course of study focused on the development of design and problem solving skills. Students in all majors are required to take “Statics and Engineering Design (SED)” during their first year. Mechanical Engineering students then take Introduction to Mechanical Engineering Design (IMED), which introduces open-ended problem solving and basic CAD and manufacturing skills. Sophomore and junior years are focused on analysis based courses, such as Mechanics of Materials and Thermodynamics, in preparation for those requiring integrated knowledge in their senior year, such as Experimental Methods, Machine Design, and Controls.

Lab periods in the senior Machine Design course are dedicated to preparing students for their final capstone design project through participation in a common design, build, and test exercise. Machine Design projects focused on only the course at hand may help enforce a notion that classes are not integrated. Many projects at the Coast Guard Academy included need statements requiring design of small table top models using basic machine components such as gears, pulleys, belts, and chains. Unfortunately the power sources were often battery powered DC

Plumley, M., & Palm, W., & Simpson, W. (2008, June), A Common Design Build Test Project Incorporating Freshman And Senior Undergraduate Analysis Skills Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3168

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