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A Senior Research Project Applied Across The Curriculum

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Innovative Lab and Hands-on Projects

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.104.1 - 7.104.8



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Paper Authors

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Matthew Obenchain

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Keith Bearden

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Dan Diaz

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Brian Self

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

Main Menu Section 2168

A Senior Research Project Applied Across the Curriculum

Brian P. Self, Keith Bearden, Matthew Obenchain and Daniel Diaz

US Air Force Academy, Colorado

ABSTRACT In most Engineering curricula, the courses are somewhat disjointed with very few projects or concepts tying classes together. In the Engineering Mechanics Department at the US Air Force Academy, we have the opportunity to create a common thread through at least a few of the cadets’ senior level classes. At the same time, it is possible to involve the students in some research at the undergraduate level. Example projects that are used in courses involving experimental mechanics, finite element analysis, independent research, and competition teams will be presented, and benefits of this integrated approach discussed.

INTRODUCTION When students enter most engineering programs, they are presented with many different tools to use in their chosen field. Engineering Mechanics curricula may include mechanics of materials, dynamics, materials sciences, fluid flow, and failure analysis. While these courses provide valuable skills to place in their engineering toolbox, they are often disjointed. The advent of capstone design projects had done much to help students synthesize what they must know as engineers, but often the scope of these projects is limited. Team sizes may be so large as to prohibit true synthesis, as the students tend to “divide and conquer” to complete the project.

Some programs have been able to make large gains in integrating their curricula, but most involve the first two years of studies.1-5 While these efforts have made great strides in improving the students’ introduction to the engineering field, they do not fully test the students’ ability to apply their upper level course knowledge to solve engineering problems. Engineering projects that can be used in several different courses may prove useful in forcing the students to assimilate their engineering knowledge and will also serve to introduce them to research.

The US Air Force Academy is an undergraduate only institution; therefore faculty must recruit undergraduates to perform research if they need assistance. Currently, the time demands on most faculty are too great to allow significant research to be accomplished. Instructors usually teach three to four section of classes each semester, and typically must double prep. Unless they can obtain assistance from undergraduate students, it may be impossible to perform data collection and analysis. Faculty members are encouraged to mentor cadets in their research to introduce the future officers to the scientific method. Many cadets author abstracts each year at USAFA, and a current goal of the research community is to produce even more research publications in the coming years.

The cadets’ time is in even more demand than that of the faculty. It is extremely difficult for most cadets to devote the amount of time necessary to create a research product worthy of Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Obenchain, M., & Bearden, K., & Diaz, D., & Self, B. (2002, June), A Senior Research Project Applied Across The Curriculum Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10487

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