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Development And Implementation Of A Common Investigative Methods Course For Undergraduate Engineering Students

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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

6.360.1 - 6.360.4

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Paper Authors

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Wayne LePori

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Scott Osborn

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Marty Matlock

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Cady Engler

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

Session: 2326

Development and Implementation of a Common Investigative Methods Course for Undergraduate Engineering Students

Marty Matlock, Scott Osborn, Wayne LePori, and Cady Engler, Department of Agricultural Engineering Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843

Introduction A common concern among engineering faculty is that our students, while competent with engineering design concepts and processes, are increasingly incompetent in pragmatic application of those concepts. Historically students with an interest in engineering “tinkered” with things, had experience building and testing ideas, and generally knew their way around a toolbox. That understanding can no longer be assumed, as technological processes increasingly are treated as black boxes.1 In response to this concern we developed and have taught a course designed to introduce sophomore students in engineering to field and laboratory techniques used in biological systems, agricultural, and environmental engineering. Our experience has been that students are generally very resistant to discovery-based laboratories since by definition this approach lacks explicit step-by-step guidance.

The primary objective of the course is to provide students with physical applications of theoretical concepts. This course is a common requirement across the undergraduate curricula for Biological Systems Engineering and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University, linking freshman and sophomore engineering science courses to junior and senior-level courses through common design concepts and projects. Students work in small groups to design and conduct experiments over the course of the semester. Students are introduced to these techniques through hands-on investigation of engineering concepts, involving processes as simple as wiring of motors, assembling and testing pumping arrays, and measuring potentiometric gradients, to processes as complex as designing and programming analog and digital systems. Students communicate the results of their work in weekly laboratory reports. A faculty member with expertise in that specific topic area teaches the lecture component of each section. The pedagogic strategy is to provide students with experience that supports the theory they are learning in foundation engineering courses and to link the concepts of conservation of mass and energy across disciplinary focus areas (biosystems, mechanical, food, environmental). The course is structured as one hour of lecture followed by two laboratory sessions of three hours each, for three semester credit hours. Students work in teams of three, with an enrollment of 36 for the first year. We developed the course with five sections: 1) Investigative Methods, 2) Mechatronics, 3) Environmental Processes, 4) Energy Systems, and 5) Geo-Metrics.

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

LePori, W., & Osborn, S., & Matlock, M., & Engler, C. (2001, June), Development And Implementation Of A Common Investigative Methods Course For Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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