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Civil And Mechanical Engineering Students Learning Mechanics In A Multidisciplinary Engineering Foundation Spiral

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovative Mechanics Education Programs and Projects

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.357.1 - 12.357.12



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Paper Authors


Jean Nocito-Gobel University of New Haven

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Jean Nocito-Gobel, an Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of New Haven, received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is currently serving as the Coordinator for the First Year Program. Her professional interests include modeling the transport and fate of contaminants in groundwater and surface water systems, as well as engineering education reform.

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Gregory Broderick University of New Haven

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Gregory P. Broderick, a Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of New Haven, received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently the Undergraduate Coordinator for the Civil Engineering Program, Freshman Advisor for Civil Engineering and PLTW/UNH Affiliate Professor. His professional interests include Soil and Slope Stabilization, Geosynthetics, Bioremediation, GIS and GPS as well as exploring new instruction pedagogies in engineering education.

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Samuel Daniels University of New Haven

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Samuel Bogan Daniels, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of New Haven, received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University and has a P.E license in CT. He is currently the freshman advisor for Mechanical Engineering, ASME & SAE Faculty Advisor, PLTW UNH Affiliate Professor, and has interests in solid modeling, electric vehicles and composites.

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Michael Collura University of New Haven

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Dr. Collura, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of New Haven, received his B.S. Chemical Engineering from Lafayette College and the M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Lehigh University. His professional interests include the application of computers to process modeling and control, as well as reform of engineering education.

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Richard Stanley University of New Haven

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Richard Stanley, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Haven, received his Ph.D. from Yale University. He is currently teaching a course in the First Year Program as well as a course that has prerequisites in both the first and second year of the program. His professional interests include computer-aided engineering and design.

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


Common to all civil and mechanical engineering programs are mechanics courses that are typically taught from a discipline specific perspective. Basic mechanics concepts are first introduced in physics courses often taken during the freshman year and then developed in sophomore level courses such as Statics, Strength of Materials and Dynamics. Transferring knowledge gained in these courses to discipline specific upper level courses is often a struggle for students.

During the 2004-05 academic year, faculty at the University of New Haven began the implementation of a new curriculum that stresses development of professional and technical skills during the first two years, while introducing basic engineering concepts. The Multi- Disciplinary Engineering Foundation Spiral (MDEFS) is a four-semester sequence of engineering courses (EAS prefix), matched closely with the development of students’ mathematical sophistication and analytical capabilities and integrated with course work in the sciences1. The purpose behind restructuring the curriculum was to take advantage of common professional and technical skill development that was repeated in the older, more traditional curriculum. The EAS sequence builds upon common problem solving courses that teach the core content areas with greater breadth and without the traditional narrow depth. As the students enter disciplinary courses in their junior and senior years, the traditional depth is still present, but it is hoped that the students have a broader view of engineering and are more able to work in the multidisciplinary environment of the engineer of 2020.

At the core of any problem in mechanics is a basic solutions approach that is common to thermofluid systems, electrical systems and other systems. The new curriculum emphasizes problem solving for a variety of systems through the use of conservation and accounting principles2. This paper addresses how mechanics topics are threaded through the EAS sequence of courses, and how mastery of these topics is being assessed in the first semester junior level mechanics courses.

Curriculum Changes

The sequence of courses taken by students during their first two years in the traditional curriculum reflects a traditional approach to learning mechanics in civil (CE) and mechanical (ME) engineering programs. Students took their first physics course, PH150 Mechanics/Heat/Waves, in the traditional curriculum second semester freshman year in which they were introduced to basic particle kinematics and kinetics and force resolution. First semester sophomore year, students gained an understanding of the behavior of simple structures under various loadings, and investigated stresses and deformations as they relate to the design of simple mechanisms and structures in CE205 Statics and Strengths. This 4 credit course combined topics from both Statics and Strength of Materials traditionally taught as separate courses. The need to reduce overall credits in both the civil and mechanical engineering programs dictated the change to this combined course in the late 1990s. CE205 was taught by faculty in the civil engineering program and taken by both civil and mechanical engineering

Nocito-Gobel, J., & Broderick, G., & Daniels, S., & Collura, M., & Stanley, R. (2007, June), Civil And Mechanical Engineering Students Learning Mechanics In A Multidisciplinary Engineering Foundation Spiral Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2570

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