June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
New Engineering Educators
15.372.1 - 15.372.10
Designing User-Friendly Handouts for a Fluid Power Class
Fluid power, the branch of mechanical engineering focused on compressed air and hydraulic systems, is an inherently image-intensive subject. Teaching fluid power involves cutaway diagrams of valves, cylinders, pumps, and motors, as well as performance curves and other technical graphs. Chalkboard instruction is inadequate: substantial image degradation occurs as pictures and graphs are transferred from original sources to the instructor’s notes, then to the chalkboard, and finally into the students’ notes. In addition, students often run out of time while copying images, and may miss critical details. One solution is to provide printed handouts with images used in the lecture. However, the standard handout formats available in Microsoft PowerPoint lack the flexibility required for notetaking. The number of slides per page is fixed at either 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, or 9; some combinations include horizontal lines for brief notes, but most formats severely restrict notetaking space. Within these formats, the instructor does not have the freedom to print slides on the same page at different magnifications, to change font sizes, to move images on the page, or to insert white spaces for notetaking. Instead, a new approach is needed, in which images are copied into a word processor, then manipulated to transform user- hostile handouts into user-friendly handouts. Assessment of this approach includes student- generated improvement recommendations. Students photocopy their notes, then mark them with red pen to indicate recommended changes. This approach is not limited to fluid power, or even to engineering; it lends itself to any image-intensive topic, technical or otherwise.
One reason students choose to enroll in Mechanical Engineering Technology rather than in Mechanical Engineering is the hands-on, practical nature of an MET curriculum. These students like the blend of engineering science and engineering practice, with an emphasis on applications. A Fluid Power course is a good example: students learn fluid flow science (Bernoulli’s equation, pipe size selection methods, etc.) as well as hydraulic and pneumatic circuit symbols and circuits, ladder diagrams for electrical control, and the operation characteristics of pumps, piping, valves, gauges, filters, cylinders, and motors. In a typical course, students learn these concepts through readings, lectures, and laboratory experiments using hydraulic and pneumatic test stands.
The first semester I taught Fluid Power to sophomore and junior Mechanical Engineering Technology students, I used a chalkboard to explain equations, graphs, and the construction and operation of fluid power components. While this 19th century teaching technology worked well for equations, it was insufficient for graphs and pictures, so I converted the lectures to PowerPoint, and I printed the slides for the students. PowerPoint offers several printing options for handouts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, or 9 slides to a page. I printed 6 to a page, double-sided, to save paper.
Dupen, B. (2010, June), Designing User Friendly Handouts For A Fluid Power Class Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/15863
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