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An Integrated Course On The Experimental Method In Engineering

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.86.1 - 3.86.6

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Yvan Champoux

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

Session 1326

An Integrated Course on the Experimental Method in Engineering

Yvan Champoux Mechanical Engineering Department Université de Sherbrooke


In 1996, the Mechanical Engineering Department of l’Université de Sherbrooke introduced a new and progressive curriculum. A course entitled "Experimental Method in Engineering" was developed to teach to the students how to solve technical problems using an experimental approach. The course was offered for the first time in the fall of 1997 to a class of 120 sopho- mores. The purpose of the course is threefold. First, it covers the basic knowledge associated to experimentation. Second, several laboratories are used to enhance the understanding of the courses content and to develop the students skills. Finally, the course is closely linked to a major semester experimental project. This paper presents a short description of the course content and how the course was designed. It also demonstrates that the course is an excellent “integrator” that allows the students to link the knowledge covered in various courses.

I. Introduction

A new mechanical engineering curriculum was introduced in 1996. This innovative curriculum is based on the development of the students skills. The students are guided not only to acquire knowledge but also competences and skills. One key word that inspired the development of the new program is integration : vertical integration to link the knowledge from one semester to another ; horizontal integration to link the courses within a semester. In order to favor the integration especially in regards of the mathematics concepts, the freshmen year is merged (“integrated”) into the new curriculum. All the students must follow the same courses in the same class. A progression “a la carte” is no longer possible. The mathematical and computer science knowledge are deployed in the program only if they are pertinent and used by the other basic engineering courses taught during the same semester. This is considered as a “just in time approach”. The objective is to maximize the integration of mathematics and com- puter science knowledge since the students can sense that these topics are relevant and useful.

In the new curriculum, computer science, mathematics and experimentation are considered as three equivalent tools that the student must learn to use and master. After World War II, the development of experimentation skills has been considerably neglected in favor of a more theo- retical background. This was one of the reasons why the best engineers became the best analysts, but not the best designers. In the new program, the experimentation is rehabilitated and is considered as a practical tool that can be used to solve problems.

Champoux, Y. (1998, June), An Integrated Course On The Experimental Method In Engineering Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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