June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.104.1 - 26.104.18
A Roller Coaster Project as Part of an Undergraduate Dynamics Course in Mechanical EngineeringAbstractUndergraduate dynamics courses in mechanical engineering are typically structured aroundstudents solving numerous textbook-style problems in order to increase their proficiency atanalyzing different scenarios involving dynamics concepts. However, students may not see howthe same concepts can be useful in open-ended, design-oriented settings. To remedy thisshortcoming and to help students synthesize material from different topics within dynamics, aroller coaster design project has been developed and incorporated into an undergraduatedynamics class.This roller coaster project allows the students to investigate and creatively apply their analyticskills to an ambiguous, real-world problem that they are highly motivated to explore. It bothreinforces the underlying curriculum and also helps students develop intellectually, as the projectis designed to teach that dynamics isn’t so much about looking for the “right answer” as it isabout choices and simplifications made in modeling reality.Although roller coaster design projects have been used as the basis of entire undergraduatecourses and also in STEM activities for pre-college students, the author is unaware of a similarproject being included as part of a first course in dynamics. For this project, students in teams ofthree were tasked with designing, analyzing, and simulating a roller coaster over the course of asemester during one of the four instructional hours allotted each week. This paper details theorganization of the project and the methods by which the students were assessed. It also includesdata regarding student perceptions of the project, specifically how much the project helped themlearn to apply basic dynamics concepts, work in teams, and develop analytic skills of valueoutside of the classroom.
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