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Design Projects For Mechanics Courses

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.340.1 - 6.340.14



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Paper Authors

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N.J. Salamon

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Renata Engel

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

Session 3268

Design Projects for Mechanics Courses

Nicholas J. Salamon and Renata S. Engel

The Pennsylvania State University


In teaching undergraduate mechanics, it is important to regularly relate the theory to applications in a meaningful manner. We believe mechanical design is the most important and convenient application to employ for the following reasons: (1) it closely follows the mechanics theory, (2) it requires an understanding of the theory, (3) it introduces markets and mechanical technology to students, (4) it connects students with information available on the Internet and in libraries and (5) it broadens their world view of engineering through human factors, reliability, environmental, international diversity and other concerns. In this paper we select one student design project from an introductory strength of materials course and show how these reasons, when converted into course objectives, are met. The positive outcomes are clear in that students learn far more than analysis. Less clear is whether ’learning by doing’ motivates and enables all learners. The negative outcome is that such a full-featured course is not for every student. Some simply cannot put abstract equations into practical use; others find it difficult working in teams. We summarize these and other challenges to implementing a design-based curriculum in undergraduate mechanics courses.

I. Introduction

Very few undergraduate students of the current generation are receptive to rote learning of the science and mathematics of engineering subjects. Today’s students, raised from childhood to ask ’why’, demand to know why they are learning what is being taught. This liberalization in learning is standard procedure in secondary schools. Indeed in this ’information age’, we need to know ’why’ in order to evaluate and filter out what is to be retained from the glut of information available. ’Why’ is part and parcel to the contemporary emphasis on learning rather than teaching in higher education. In part, it has prompted questions about the effectiveness of the traditional lecture for the learner and has led to a revolutionary change in engineering education. This change is manifested in the what, why and how of teaching and learning. (This is a slight variation of the "learning cycle" in figure 2 of ref. 1.)

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Salamon, N., & Engel, R. (2001, June), Design Projects For Mechanics Courses Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9088

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