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All of ME in One Short Semester

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Outreach, Engagement, and Undergraduate Research

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.145.1 - 25.145.8

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Paper Authors


Benson H. Tongue University of California, Berkeley

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Benson H. Tongue has been a professor for many years at UC, Berkeley.

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All of ME in One Short SemesterMechanical Engineering departments have been facing several challenges of late, chief amongthem being a reduced cadre of motivated and educated students desiring to enter the fieldand a marked lack of women within this group. The reasons for this are multifold butchief among them are the reduced opportunities for young men and women to experienceengineering in any meaningful way during their K-12 times and the long-standing bias in oureducational systems that direct men toward math and science to a far greater degree thanthey do women. Further, much research has indicated that women place a greater valueon socially beneficial research, and to the unfamiliar eye mechanical engineering can seemrather utilitarian and remote from such concerns.Adding further difficulties is the fact that the first two years of a student’s experience usuallyinvolves a slate of preparatory mathematics and science courses. Useful material, to be sure,but not necessarily compelling and certainly not, in general, taught in a way that shows howthe material will be usefully deployed in upper division engineering classes.As a way to address these issues, the author has introduced and refined a freshman coursethat has been offered each semester for the last decade and that encompasses essentiallyall of mechanical engineering in an manner that is easy to comprehend and appreciate, andwhich gets the students involved in the various branches of ME practice almost without themrealizing that that’s what is happening.The key is the course revolves around two iconic devices: the automobile (in all its manifes-tations) and the bicycle. Both are items that the students have great familiarity with andfor which they feel they already ‘know a bit about.’ During the class they invariably findout that what they don’t know far outweighs what they do, but their initial comfort levelworks well to encourage them in their research projects.These two modes of transportation, each with a long history, have commonalities and de-cided differences and taken together they reflect essentially all of ME. Combustion, design,dynamics, acoustics, fluid mechanics, strength of materials, MEMS, and manufacturing areall very much present. Beyond that, the long story of the car and bicycle contains withinit case studies in design and discovery, individual and group research accomplishments, andnumerous opportunities to examine ethics and sustainability issues that impact society on adaily basis.The students don’t simply listen to the author, rather they are tasked to research and reporton these diverse areas on their own and to further discuss and learn within the larger group.The paper will go into detail into the particular application areas that are typically discussed,the breadth and depth of understanding that will typically be gleaned, and an assessmentof how the course succeeds in both motivating and attracting students to the field.

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