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Developing A 21st Century Mechanical Engineering Laboratory Curriculum

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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

6.350.1 - 6.350.9



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Paper Authors

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Charles Knight

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

Session 2366


Charles Knight, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


Electronic instrumentation and computer data acquisition has revolutionized the experimental laboratory. Universities with limited funding face major challenges in upgrading their laboratories. Industry advisors tell us they expect our engineering graduates to have modern laboratory skills. Many engineering faculty members do not possess the modern skills required to develop and/or teach laboratory curriculums required in the 21st century. This situation has developed over several decades due to universities not giving adequate emphasis and workload credit for developing and teaching labs. The senior level mechanical engineering laboratory curriculum at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) has been totally redesigned. The new curriculum is a two-hour senior level course (one-hour lecture plus a three-hour laboratory weekly) that includes both mechanical and thermal laboratory systems along with a five-week student design project. The one-hour lecture component of the course teaches modern engineering experimentation concepts required to design, collect, analyze, and interpret experimental results. The three-hour laboratory includes experiments related to refrigeration, heat exchangers, thermal conduction, transient heat transfer, internal combustion engines, combustion and emission controls for boilers, linear vibrations, dynamics balancing of rotating shafts, kinematics of motion for piston-cams, and spring dynamics. The design project is an incubator for developing similar modern lab systems for other programs in the College of Engineering. Some of the new labs are operated ON-LINE using the Internet to demonstrate the full capabilities of modern computer based experimentation. LabVIEW is used for data acquisition, analysis, presentation, and control. The paper will describe (1) new curriculum considerations, (2) modern laboratory features used including running ON-LINE over the Internet, (3) scope and objectives for the new laboratory, (4) laboratory administration, (5) design project benefits, (6) ABET benefits, (7) university benefits, (8) faculty benefits, and (9) the general laboratory content with two labs featured with photographs.


Most university engineering laboratories have been underfunded and neglected over the past decades. This has resulted from the university not providing adequate workload credit for development and teaching of labs as compared to that given for research [2]. These deficiencies have allowed many of our engineering labs to become obsolete as faculty interest in providing on-going laboratory development and supportive computer related skills have declined [3]. This trend must be reversed as our university industry advisors remind us that they expect our graduates to have skills that can only be learned in a laboratory setting where modern instrumentation and computers interface in performing data acquisition, analysis, control, and presentation [4]. The modern skills required to support new laboratory teaching and development at UTC were acquired through university faculty development grants. The new laboratory costs were shared by the state of Tennessee, UTC’s Center for Computer Excellence, University of

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

Knight, C. (2001, June), Developing A 21st Century Mechanical Engineering Laboratory Curriculum Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9100

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