Asee peer logo

Adapting The Mit Stirling Engine Project At The University Of Idaho, A Land Grant Institution

Download Paper |


2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Use of Labs to Introduce Students to Engr.

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.147.1 - 7.147.13

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Nathaniel Allen

author page

Mike Klein

author page

Matthew Cunnington

author page

Levi Westra

author page

Ronald Smelser

author page

Edwin Odom

Download Paper |

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

Main Menu Session 2426


Nathaniel B. Allen, J. Matthew Cunnington, Levi J. Westra, Michael K. Klein, Edwin M. Odom, and R. E. Smelser

University of Idaho Mechanical Engineering Moscow, ID 83844-0902


Retention of students after completion of the sophomore year in Mechanical Engineering is a problem. Students who remain often display low enthusiasm which is evident in class and on school work. Our goal is to introduce an engineering project in the sophomore year that generates a high level of student interest and aids student retention. To address similar issues, MIT includes the assembly and analysis of a Stirling engine by their sophomore students. Our challenge is to adapt the MIT Stirling engine project into the curriculum of a land grant university with a different fee structure. The Idaho Engineering Works, a group of mechanical engineering graduate students, modified the MIT Stirling engine to allow fabrication in the department machine shop. We introduced the fabrication and assembly project into the Sophomore Laboratory course and designed new laboratory exercises around the Stirling engine. The first iteration of the Stirling engine project was in the spring of 2001. Student response was very positive.


The Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Idaho is similar to other departments in seeking ways to improve recruitment and retention as well as ideas that improve the educational experience for our students. The premier issue of “Mechanical Engineering Design” magazine included an article that described how MIT students fabricate and assemble a miniature Stirling engine.1 The article reviewed the educational objectives of the project. These included assembly, designed in tolerances, concepts of power and energy transfer, analysis of engine power output, and efficiency. Additionally, we reviewed nearly 300 student-developed web pages on the project.2 Our conclusion was that this project captured the interest and imagination of the MIT students.

We decided to incorporate a similar experience into our curriculum. Figure 1 shows the present UI Stirling engine design and Figure 2 displays a labeled cut-away solid model. The critical dimensions of our design are equivalent to the MIT design. However, we made changes based on material availability, manufacturability, and improved aesthetics.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

Main Menu

Allen, N., & Klein, M., & Cunnington, M., & Westra, L., & Smelser, R., & Odom, E. (2002, June), Adapting The Mit Stirling Engine Project At The University Of Idaho, A Land Grant Institution Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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: © 2002 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