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Development and Implementation of an Intermediate Design Course Using Active Learning

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Active and Project-Based Learning

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.469.1 - 22.469.20



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Paper Authors


John S. Lamancusa Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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John S. Lamancusa is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Founding Director of the Learning Factory at Penn State. Before coming to Penn State in 1984, he was employed at AT&T Bell Laboratories where his technical experience included electronic packaging, product design, and acoustic design of telecommunications equipment. At Penn State, he teaches courses in design, vibrations, noise control, product dissection, and mechatronics, and supervises senior design projects. He is the faculty advisor for Penn State’s student chapter of Engineers without Borders. Professor Lamancusa received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, with a minor in electrical and computer engineering, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1982. Dr. Lamancusa earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Dayton in 1978. Professor Lamancusa is a past Vice President of the Board of Directors for the American Society of Engineering Education, a Research Fellow of the Humboldt Foundation and a registered professional engineer. He was awarded the 2006 Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering Education by the National Academy of Engineering, and the Joel Spira Outstanding Educator Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) and of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

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Laura L. Pauley Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Laura L. Pauley, Professor of mechanical engineering, joined the Pennsylvania State University faculty in 1988. From 2000 to 2007, she served as the Professor-in-Charge of Undergraduate Programs in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. In 2003, Laura received the Penn State Undergraduate Program Leadership Award. Dr. Pauley teaches courses in the thermal sciences and conducts research in computational fluid mechanics and engineering education. She received degrees in mechanical engineering from University of Illinois (B.S. in 1984) and Stanford University (M.S. in 1985 and Ph.D. in 1988). She can be contacted at

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Development and Implementation of an Intermediate Design Course Using Active LearningSix years ago, the Mechanical Engineering Department at *****, after many heated debates,approved a major curriculum change that included adding a Design Methodology course, andeliminating courses in Kinematics and Thermodynamics II. This action was taken to better alignwith ABET curriculum objectives, particularly in the area of Design. The primary objective ofthe Design Methodology course is to reinforce and expand on the foundation laid in a Design andGraphics course taken in the first year, and to better prepare students to satisfy an industrialclient in the senior capstone course. It is intended to help fill the void in the 2nd and 3rd yearswhere students were previously pre-occupied with lecture-based, fundamental courses with littleopportunity to design or practice. It is a required course for all Mechanical Engineering andNuclear Engineering majors and is typically taken in the 6th semester.The course was designed from a set of learning objectives and emphasizes design thinking,decision making, and professional skills including communications and effective teaming.Philosophically, this course attempts to strike a balance between the art and science of design. Aconcurrent approach is used, where theory and application are presented simultaneously usingthe design process as the underlying theme. Product design, dissection, and reverse engineeringprojects are employed to motivate student learning, and to allow them to apply and practicecourse concepts. Each class meeting (2 hours, twice per week) consists of a brief presentation orworkshop and a hands-on activity to illustrate and apply that material. Wherever possible, a just-in-time approach is followed, where the class material is designed to satisfy a need forknowledge to complete a project.After 5 years of operation, the course has achieved its objectives and was singled out for specialrecognition in our latest ABET review. The student “word on the street” is that the course is alot of work but they learned a lot. Formative and summative assessment tools are used to gatherstudent feedback for continuous improvement. Assessment results show that students who havetaken this course are much more confident in their abilities to manage and complete an open-ended design project involving multiple trade-offs. There has also been a noticeableimprovement in student performance in their capstone course. Due to this success, the ElectricalEngineering Department is instituting a similar course tailored to the needs of their students.The challenges include: high enrollments (10 sections per year, 30 students per section),coordination between multiple instructors and sections, and providing an active learningenvironment for large numbers of students. This paper discusses the development, operation,and results of this course.

Lamancusa, J. S., & Pauley, L. L. (2011, June), Development and Implementation of an Intermediate Design Course Using Active Learning Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17750

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