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Benefits Of Undergraduate Research And Independent Study

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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

ME Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.253.1 - 10.253.6



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Paper Authors

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Scott Kiefer

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Nihad Dukhan

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

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Benefits of Undergraduate Research and Independent Study Dr. Scott Kiefer, Dr. Nihad Dukhan Tri-State University / University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez

Abstract It can be very difficult for junior faculty members to find the time required to develop new courses and to establish a research program while continuing to dedicate the time necessary for students in their regular teaching load. One way to maximize the benefit of time spent is to teach small independent study courses with research projects that help prepare students for graduate school and evaluate course material to be used later in new course offerings.

This paper describes some research work that was conducted by undergraduate mechanical engineering students at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez during the past three years. The general research topics were heat transfer in open-cell aluminum foam and microprocessor control. The students’ attitude, professionalism, independence, work habits, and intelligence ranged from average to outstanding. The upper-echelon students produced high enough quality work for presentation in engineering conferences and, with some extra input from the faculty, in engineering journals. The students were listed as co-authors in all publications. Three of the best students gave presentations of the results in four engineering forums. A few of the undergraduate students were even motivated to attend graduate school.

The undergraduate research experience was determined to be both successful and beneficial to both the students and the faculty. For the students, the benefits were numerous. They learned how to use research equipment, developed written and oral communication skills, gained experience in obtaining information and price estimates from manufacturers, and learned how to work within the university system to order materials and support conference travel. Furthermore, the students were able to acquire an insight into heat transfer and mechatronics, and they developed a great deal of pride in the findings and the presentations. For the faculty, the students helped develop course materials, helped establish and sustain a research program that provided a general research direction and enough preliminary results to write proposals for funding, and attract new graduate students. In addition, the university expectation to publish in conferences and journals was partially satisfied. The faculty also learned a great deal about working closely with and managing students. Such opportunities are not usually available in regular undergraduate engineering courses. This paper describes the research work, the students’ feedback, and gives a general assessment of the research experience.

1. Introduction Undergraduate research has gained significant popularity in many, if not most, of engineering schools in the past few years. Engineering undergraduate students are usually provided with some design experiences in the cap stone design courses and design-type projects

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Kiefer, S., & Dukhan, N. (2005, June), Benefits Of Undergraduate Research And Independent Study Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15602

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