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Designing a Scalable Statics Project for a First-Year Mechanical Engineering Course

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2017 FYEE Conference


Daytona Beach, Florida

Publication Date

August 6, 2017

Start Date

August 6, 2017

End Date

August 8, 2017

Conference Session

Enrollment, Instruction and Pedagogy - Focus on Design-Based Projects

Tagged Topic

FYEE Division - Paper Submission

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Paper Authors


Dani Fadda P.E. University of Texas, Dallas

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Dr. Fadda is Clinical Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His background includes two decades of professional engineering practice in the energy industry where he has held numerous positions. Dr. Fadda has worked in product research and developed patented products for chemical, petrochemical, and nuclear applications. He is involved with professional organizations and was named the 2016 ASME North Texas Engineer of the Year.

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Oziel Rios University of Texas, Dallas

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Dr. Oziel Rios earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 where his research focused on design of robotic systems with an emphasis on kinematic and dynamic modeling for analysis and control. Dr. Rios teaches the first-year and CAD courses in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. Rios has also taught kinematics and dynamics of machines and graduate-level CAD courses. Dr. Rios’ research and teaching interests include: robotics, design, kinematics and dynamics of machines and engineering education.

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A two credit-hour, first-year course is offered in the Mechanical Engineering Department which is a pre-requisite for core mechanical engineering courses including mechanical design, statics, kinematics, dynamics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. The purpose of this course is to give students a general understanding of the broad range of technical areas and applications specific to the mechanical engineering profession. In this course, weekly lectures are given by mechanical engineering faculty or industry experts followed by a lab where students work on projects related to the lectures that require analysis, computer simulations, fabricating and testing. To address the broad range of technical areas, the students work on four design-related projects throughout the semester: computer-aided design, mechanism design, design of structures, and thermal analysis.

In this paper, we will present one portion of the class related to a statics project, designed to give students a preliminary understanding on the design of structures. Students work in teams of two to design a truss which can bear the highest possible load within given space and materials constraints. The students conduct research and brainstorm different truss designs. Once they select a design, they generate a set of equations to model the truss, solve these equations using MATLAB, and determine the load in each of the truss’ members. Finally, they fabricate their prototypes and subject them to destructive testing to determine the highest load the truss can bear.

We will discuss how the project was originally designed and how it was improved to be suitable for a small or medium sized class (e.g., 50 students) and also for a larger class (e.g., 250 students). The improvements were successfully tested during the fall of 2016 on a class of 48 students. It is now scaled to a class of 221 students during the spring of 2017. A discussion of the resources (materials) and personnel including faculty and graduate teaching assistants required to administer this activity is also presented. Finally, we will discuss how improvements to this project can be made based on faculty observations and assessments, as well as a survey administered to the students.

Fadda, D., & Rios, O. (2017, August), Designing a Scalable Statics Project for a First-Year Mechanical Engineering Course Paper presented at 2017 FYEE Conference, Daytona Beach, Florida.

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