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Deconstructing (And Reconstructing) The Engineering Laboratory

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.138.1 - 1.138.5



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Paper Authors

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Richard D. Swope

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J. Paul Giolma

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

Session 1426

Deconstructing (and Reconstructing) the Engineering Laboratory

J. Paul Giolma, Richard D. Swope Trinity University


Scientific and engineering accomplishments prior to and during World War II laid the foundation for significant changes in engineering education-- changes that were further accelerated following the successful launching of Sputnik. Courses became oriented more towards theory and analysis and the engineering laboratory changed to support those courses. Experimentation was used to illustrate fundamental and conceptually difficult physical phenomena and to provide “hands-on” experience. In this process of change, the teaching and practice of engineering design principles began to disappear from the curriculum.

Issues raised and discussed in this paper support a return to design as the primary purpose for the engineering laboratory. The issues include: the purposes and style of experimentation, the roles of simulation and the computer, pedagogical relationships between the laboratory and the lecture, the role of engineering science in support of design, and intended outcomes for students (graduate school vs. immediate career entry).

We provide an example which articulates our goals for an engineering laboratory experience: the gathering of information to support design. Design of Experiments (DOE) techniques are employed to develop a predictive relationship for the dependence of the heat transfer coefficient for a fin as a function of cross-sectional shape, material and convection air speed. The resulting prediction equation is used to design a fin to give off a specified heat rate.


Just as the engineering profession has a long enduring and close tie with the basic sciences, the engineering laboratory has often adopted the goals, objectives and methodologies of laboratory experiences in the sciences. A compendium of goals and objectives for an engineering laboratory might look like this:

1. testing and confirmation of theoretical principles 2. gaining a familiarity with instrumentation and other equipment 3. supporting the lecture course(s) 4. experience in obtaining and reporting on data 5. “hands-on experience” and “learning by doing” 6. to gain knowledge of engineering design

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Swope, R. D., & Giolma, J. P. (1996, June), Deconstructing (And Reconstructing) The Engineering Laboratory Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--5960

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