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An Introduction To Mechanical Engineering Program For Middle School Students

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.103.1 - 5.103.10



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Paper Authors

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Terry L. Ballinger

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Craig W. Somerton

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

Session 1566

An Introduction to Mechanical Engineering Program for Middle School Students

Craig W. Somerton, Terry L. Ballinger Michigan State University/Lansing Catholic Central High School

I. Introduction

The Mathematics, Science, and Technology (MST) program at Michigan State University is a two week, summer residential program for academically talented middle school students. This past summer, for the first time, a mechanical engineering academic class was offered. The students attend the class for two hours each day. An MSU faculty member is paired with a local middle or high school teacher for each academic class. The mechanical engineering class was divided into ten units, coinciding with the ten class periods. Each unit covered one of the basic topics of mechanical engineering. The standard format of a class period involved three components. First, a relatively brief lecture was given on the topic of the day. This was done using a Microsoft PowerPoint slide show, which conveyed a certain level of professionalism in the class and the use of technology. The second part of the class period involved a hands-on project. The project tied in with the topic of the day and was of such a form that the students could test their projects against each other in a competition. Finally, the class period concluded with a review of the project, including an assessment as to why certain devices performed better than other devices. Approximately half of the units included a homework assignment that involved calculations associated with the project.

The topics presented in the class were identified through input gathered from faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MSU. The following nine topics were then incorporated in the course:

Energy, Work and Heat Design as a Creative Problem Solving Process Structures Buoyancy and Aerodynamics Heating and Air Conditioning Propulsion Dynamics Controls Manufacturing

Since the first class period was devoted to an introduction of the profession of engineering (and mechanical engineering in particular), nine class periods were left to cover the nine topics listed above. However, it seemed necessary to pair one of the technical topics with the design topic, as it would be difficult to introduce the creative problem solving process we call design without a problem to focus on. Structures was chosen as the technical topic to be paired with the design topic. Two tours were also included in the program. The first tour was a tour of the HVAC facilities in the MSU Engineering Building (where the class was held), and replaced the hands- on project component for the heating and air conditioning unit. A tour of the General Motors final assembly plant in Lansing was used as part of the manufacturing unit. With the required

Ballinger, T. L., & Somerton, C. W. (2000, June), An Introduction To Mechanical Engineering Program For Middle School Students Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8514

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