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Computational Education Within Mechanical Engineering Programs

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Curriculums in Transition

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.328.1 - 9.328.10



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Paper Authors

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James Vennes

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Phillip Smith

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

Session 2465

Computational Education within Mechanical Engineering Programs

P. Smith, R. Pederson, and J. Vennes

Mechanical Engineering Department New Mexico State University


This paper describes the experience in the Mechanical Engineering Department at New Mexico State University in introducing a sophisticated solids modeling software package at the freshman level to replace the traditional computer aided mechanical drawing course. The package is then further utilized within the upper level undergraduate courses at increasing degrees of complexity and sophistication. The rationale for this is that employers of mechanical engineers expect them to have proficiency with this type of software, and there is a very steep learning curve in reaching a reasonable degree of proficiency. The results of several years of experience with developing this teaching approach are discussed. For example, students' performance in applying mathematics, from geometry through differential equations, to solving mechanical engineering problems is examined in order to determine if their mathematical abilities are enhanced or degraded. Other advantages and disadvantages of such an undergraduate program are discussed and suggestions and recommendations concerning future programs are made.

I. Introduction

A subject that has been discussed by engineering professors and practicing engineers since the advent of computer software used to solve engineering problems is this: should the user of this software understand the mathematics, the assumptions, and the algorithms which are utilized within the software? As the software evolves to higher and higher order, this question becomes more important. Within our undergraduate Mechanical Engineering curriculum it is certainly necessary that our students be introduced to such software and reach a certain degree of competency in its use because their future employers expect this. Further, such software allows the solution of more and more complex problems, such as non-linear problems, for example, which leads to more realistic, more accurate design of products and processes. Also, the speed and efficiency which computers bring to the design process is highly desirable.

But, is there a downside? The answer to this question may depend upon your point of view, but from the academic side of Mechanical Engineering we see several difficulties that need to be addressed in various areas of the curriculum. Most Mechanical Engineering curriculums are rather diverse in the science and engineering topics addressed. However, from the

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Vennes, J., & Smith, P. (2004, June), Computational Education Within Mechanical Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13725

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