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A Novel Labwork Approach For Teaching A Mechatronics Course

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovations in Mechanical Engineering Education Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.83.1 - 12.83.12



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Paper Authors


Ioana Voiculescu City College of the City University of New York

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Professor Ioana Voiculescu received a Ph. D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Politehnica University, Timisoara, Romania, in 1997 in the field of Precision Mechanics. She finished her second doctorate in 2005, also in Mechanical Engineering, but with the emphasis in MEMS. She has worked for five years at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, DC in the area of MEMS gas sensors and gas preconcentrators. Currently, she is developing a MEMS laboratory in the Mechanical Engineering Department at City College of New York. She is an IEEE member, an ASME member and a reviewer for IEEE Sensors Journal in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

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Benjamin Liaw City College of the City University of New York

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



This paper presents a novel approach adopted to enhance the hands-on learning aspect of a Mechatronics course for undergraduate mechanical engineering students. In addition to traditional homework, which is usually solved analytically and/or numerically and conventional laboratory experiments, in which students follow certain pre-written, spoon-feeding procedures to complete assignment, our approach designed a set of “labwork” as an integral part of this course for students’ learning through their own “design of experiments” to solve engineering problems. To solve these “labwork” assignments, students were required to work as a team in the laboratory outside class hours. Each team was assigned several engineering problems to be solved (e.g., to find the stress concentration factor of a rectangular plastic plate with a U-notch under uniaxial tension). Instead of conventional approach (e.g., finite element method), the team was asked to use the equipment and software available for them in the lab (e.g., three strain gages and a strain indicator); designed, set-up and conducted their own experiment (e.g., where to place the three strain gages at the most suitable locations so that the stress concentration can be assessed most accurately?); analyzed the data and compared their results with solutions obtained by other means (e.g., from textbooks/handbooks, finite element solutions, etc.); and finally submitted final written reports. During these learning processes, the students were able to solve the “labwork” assignments collaboratively among themselves and without much intervention from the instructor and lab technician. The students arranged with the lab technician the optimal time frame when they were free and could work in the lab. The technician was assisting the students during the “labwork” but his input was minimal. In a nutshell these “labwork” assignments require students to apply the theoretical knowledge they have learned during lecture sessions of the course and to use laboratory skills in equipment and software they have acquired during conventional laboratory sessions. As a result students will be challenged to solve engineering problems independently and as a team, and gain confidence in their ability to apply their knowledge for problem solving when encountering new and uncharted terrains. From the survey conducted for the “labwork” evaluation, the student feedback was positive.

1. Introduction Mechatronics, a truly multi-disciplinary approach to engineering, integrates the classical fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, and information technology to establish basic principles for a contemporary engineering design methodology1. Mechatronics, has become a key to many different products and processes. Modern systems have reached a level of sophistication which would have been hard to imagine using traditional methods. The integration of mechanics, electronics, control and computing exploits and exceeds the relative advantages of single disciplines, and when they are integrated, the synergy ensures that performances reach unprecedented levels2. The importance of Mechatronics Engineering will further increase due to consumer demands. Thus it has a vital role to play in the new millennium.

Voiculescu, I., & Liaw, B. (2007, June), A Novel Labwork Approach For Teaching A Mechatronics Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2201

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