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Development Of A Roving Laboratory In Vibrations For Undergraduate Engineering Students

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Innovative Hands-On Projects and Labs

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.421.1 - 8.421.15

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Paper Authors

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Nasir Bilal

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Harold Kess

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Douglas Adams

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

Session 1368

Development of a Roving Laboratory in Vibrations for Undergraduate Engineering Students

Nasir Bilal, Harold R. Kess, and Douglas E. Adams Purdue University, School of Mechanical Engineering 585 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2040


Details on the development of a roving laboratory for undergraduate students in a new vibrations course including the instrumentation, laboratory format and several laboratory projects are discussed in addition to the inquiry-based, observational instructional approach that is being developed to complement the laboratory. Experiments in the roving laboratory are to be carried out in class, in two different on-campus facilities, and in the field. These experiments are used by the instructor to motivate each and every theoretical discussion in class, to teach students how to plan, conduct and interpret their own experiments, and to expose students to important emerging areas of experimental mechanics. The unique observational instructional approach of the course complements the roving laboratory by reversing the roles of theoretical and experimental techniques that exist in traditional laboratory oriented classes. Instead of using experiments to validate theories, theories are used to validate experiments. The make-up of an industrial advisory committee, which supports the roving laboratory by donating test specimens, providing engineering problems of practical importance and evaluating the results of the course, is also described. The goals of the project are to give students more control of the learning process; to better educate students in vibrations and experimental mechanics; to encourage life- long self-learning and an appreciation for experimentation; and to create a stronger and more direct link between industrial partners and the classroom. The evaluation procedure for determining whether or not and to what degree the goals of the project are met is also outlined. This project, DUE-0126832, is sponsored by the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education.

1. Introduction

The theme of this project in instructional adaptation and laboratory improvement is that “experiment is the sole source of truth” (Poincaré1, 1903). This theme dates back to the time of Aristotle, Archimedes, Newton, Euler, Bernoulli, Lagrange and other giants in the history of mechanics when theories were used to validate experiments rather than the other way around as is often done in traditional laboratory oriented exercises. In fact, the majority of all breakthroughs in the field of engineering mechanics stem from observations of phenomenon that were made before developing mathematical or engineering models to explain those phenomenon (Dugas2, 1988). For example, there is a relatively recent compelling advancement in the field of dynamics that highlights the importance of experimental observations. A phenomenon called chaos, which was once dismissed as ‘noise’ in experimentally observed data has turned out to be something much more subtle and important (Moon3, 2000). It has been speculated that one Proceedings of the 2003 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Bilal, N., & Kess, H., & Adams, D. (2003, June), Development Of A Roving Laboratory In Vibrations For Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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