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A Real World Experience Using Linkages To Teach Design, Analysis, Cad And Technical Writing

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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

Innovative Techniques in Graphics

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.104.1 - 12.104.17



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Paper Authors


James Sherwood University of Massachusetts-Lowell

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Dr. Sherwood joined the University in 1993. He worked for Pratt and Whitney Aircraft and BF Goodrich as a structural engineer before entering academia. He is currently Director of the Baseball Research Center and Co-Director of the Advanced Composite Materials and Textiles Laboratory. His scholarly interests include constitutive modeling, mechanical behavior of materials with emphasis on composites, finite element methods with emphasis on high speed impact, sports engineering with emphasis on baseball and innovative teaching methods in engineering education.

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Peter Avitabile University of Massachusetts-Lowell

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Dr. Avitabile joined the University in 1985 after having worked in industry for over 10 years. His industrial and university experience of over 30 years includes analytical and experimental modal analysis, signal processing and finite element modeling.

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

A Real-World Experience using Linkages to Teach Design, Analysis, CAD and Technical Writing


Most undergraduate students in mechanical engineering are comfortable using fundamental principles and closed-form equations to solve textbook problems that are well-defined and that have a unique answer, e.g. statics, dynamics and strength of materials. However, these same students are unsure how to apply these fundamental principles and closed-form equations the first time they are given the task of doing an engineering design of a system where the parameters are such that multiple solutions are possible. To give students a first exposure to a real-world product-development team-environment scenario, the design and analysis of linkages is used as the central topic to integrate engineering analysis, design, CAD, project management and technical writing into a semester-long design project. The students work in teams of four and take a loosely defined problem from conceptual design on paper to a virtual prototype and finally to a working prototype made in the machine shop. Each week’s lecture material is reinforced with an applied hands-on lab and each weekly lab builds upon the progress of the previous labs. Weekly technical memos are submitted to document the progress of the project. Students learn how to make rational decisions as to when enough time has been spent on one aspect of the overall project and to make the decision to move on to the next step. One of the course outcomes is a one-inch thick notebook documenting the entire project, and this notebook can be used part of the student’s portfolio to be shown to a prospective employer. This paper will present the structure of the course and student evaluations of how the organization of the course relates to the success in achieving the course outcomes.


Engineering education has evolved from concentrating on teaching engineering science fundamentals to teaching students how to apply these fundamentals to design systems for real unstructured engineering problems. Teaching techniques should challenge, educate and promote innovative thinking from students. The lecture-based format of teaching which typically predominates in engineering education may not be the most effective manner to achieve these goals1,2. Constructivist learning theory asserts that knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to student, but must be actively constructed by the mind of the learner through real experiences3,4. It has been shown that students learn best with hands-on projects5, and it is imperative that students be forced to attempt design problems where no direct, exact solution exists. Students must be allowed to experience problems that require them to formulate solutions to problems with no specific straight-line structure to the solution – they must learn how to “think outside the box”6.

It is imperative that the students be actively involved in the entire learning process for full deeper appreciation of the material to be learned. “After two weeks, people generally remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they hear and see, 70% of what they say, and 90% of what they say and do.”7. Clearly, the students need to drive the learning process and be “active” participants in their educational process.

Sherwood, J., & Avitabile, P. (2007, June), A Real World Experience Using Linkages To Teach Design, Analysis, Cad And Technical Writing Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2954

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015