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Benefiting Professional Practice Using Engineering Mathematics: A Project Based Learning Approach

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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

Integrating Mathematics and Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.252.1 - 10.252.11



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Paper Authors

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Shane Palmquist

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

Session 682

Benefiting Professional Practice using Engineering Mathematics: A Project-Based Learning Approach

Shane M. Palmquist Department of Engineering Western Kentucky University


Traditionally in the engineering profession, engineers are taught to read a problem, draw the diaphragm, identify the applicable engineering equations and solve for the numerical solution. While the methodology addresses the importance of understanding the problem, the process of solving leads to a single numerical value. As a result, the solution is case specific. Any change or modification of the initial variables as is common in engineering practice is at considerable effort and expense.

Using a more general mathematical approach, the applicable equations can be developed and manipulated symbolically in terms of unknown variables to develop a class of solutions (or system of equations). The resulting family of solutions is then reduced to a simple mathematical form, which can then be solved directly for the specific numerical solution. The focus of this paper is to present the student assessments of a sophomore level engineering statics course focusing on a mathematical technique used to develop generalized solutions to engineering problems. A fundamental approach is discussed which improves student understanding of the concepts in applied engineering mechanics. As part of the course, a steel truss bridge project is integrated into the curriculum.

I. Introduction

Engineers are technical problem solvers. From a historical prospective of the mid 20th century and after, engineers have been trained to be number “crunchers” due to significant changes in engineering education and technology as a result of the post World War II era1-4. From high school math and science courses through college engineering courses, engineers have been “molded” to crunch numbers. Here is a problem with all the associated numerical information. Now, solve for the solution.

The practice of number crunching has not only been ingrained in our engineering youth but also in our technology. Computers and now calculators have been developed which can rapidly crunch numbers5. In terms of analyses, numerical based methods such as difference methods and finite element methods have been developed to approximate differential equations. Such

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

Palmquist, S. (2005, June), Benefiting Professional Practice Using Engineering Mathematics: A Project Based Learning Approach Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15401

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