June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.76.1 - 13.76.9
A Non-Traditional and Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Teaching Mechanisms and More
This paper presents a non-traditional approach of teaching mechanisms to a multi- disciplinary group of college students that included engineering, industrial technology, and art majors. The author used automata, mechanized sculptures, to teach mechanisms in his honors course (HONR 218: Animatronics1) at his previous teaching assignment. The course was designed to attract students from various backgrounds. It was intended to give students a cross-disciplinary learning experience while dealing with integration of art, engineering theory, and fabrication elements.
The approach utilized various means of teaching mechanisms, consequently addressing various types of learners. These means, presented in the following sequence, were:
1. Study of theory of machines including kinematics and dynamics2 2. Observation of working mechanisms and computer animations 3. Reverse engineering of mechanisms found in animated toys 4. Assembly and successful operation of commercially available automata kits 5. An open-ended design project where a group of students had to design and build automata.
During the course, students learned the theory governing mechanisms and their uses in the real-world. The students followed a practical path to learn about joint, element, and mechanism types as well as functions of joints and elements, and mechanism as a whole. Following the sequence mentioned above did allow each student to build a knowledge base leading to the open-ended design project assignment. Groups of two or three students designed and presented various mechanisms that included eccentric and lobed cams, ordinary cranks, crank sliders, and some bar mechanisms. During the projects, groups were also exposed to concepts such as materials and process selection, tolerances, clearances and assembly, fasteners, adhesives and joining. NC (Numerically Controlled) laser cutter hardware allowed students to cut and engrave various types of materials with minimal design effort in AutoCAD or Corel Draw.
Student response and feedback to the course and especially to the mechanism development section was extremely positive. 90% of the students were satisfied with the experience and they were in favor of further development of the course. The cross- disciplinary make-up of the class enhanced the learning experience as the art and technical majors generated a nice blend of students that worked well. All the students were hungry for practical or experiential learning, and stayed heavily engaged throughout the course. There were some drawbacks such as not having a separate laboratory session. However, students were able to work additional hours to complete their work and assignments.
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