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An Innovative Approach To The Introduction To Mechanical And Aerospace Engineering Course: Pressure

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.178.1 - 10.178.11



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Paper Authors

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Catherine Mavriplis

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

An Innovative Approach to the Introduction to Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Course: Pressure

Catherine Mavriplis

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, George Washington University


An innovative Introduction to Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering course is described. The course material focuses on the concept of pressure to relate concepts and subject matters in the intended field. Self- and group-guided inquiry is used in and out of class. Group activities are also prescribed. The course makes use of three non-fiction popular accounts of engineering feats, relating to 1) a high-pressure environment in the deep sea, 2) a low-pressure high altitude environment and 3) the pressure-less space environment. Traditional and reflective homework assignments are used to motivate the students to pursue their intended engineering education. Student outcomes included renewed enthusiasm for studying engineering, discovery of summer job opportunities related to field of study, development of student networks, and a deepening technical sophistication throughout the semester.

1. Introduction

Teaching freshmen an introductory course is always difficult. One has to bridge the large disparities in ability and interest of the students. Engineering freshmen, having typically been the brightest of their high school classes, are blasé about introductory or survey courses. Many of them think they already know what they want to do and others would rather play video games during the lecture. Having taught introduction to engineering classes of over 150 students, I knew it was difficult to get their attention, even with videos of exploding spaceships and catastrophic failures of buildings and bridges. So when I was asked to teach Introduction to Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and come up with something innovative I decided to change the plan.

The purpose of the Introduction to Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering course in George Washington University’s (GW) Engineering program is to introduce the students to the disciplines of mechanical and aerospace engineering, but also to keep their engineering interest from waning while they take freshmen year courses from instructors outside the engineering school (calculus, physics, English, etc). In Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences1, Elaine Seymour and Nancy Hewitt found that “lack or loss of interest in science” (and engineering) and “poor teaching by

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Mavriplis, C. (2005, June), An Innovative Approach To The Introduction To Mechanical And Aerospace Engineering Course: Pressure Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15548

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