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Effective Teaching Of Complex Manufacturing Topics To Undergraduate Engineers Utilizing A Novel, Broadly Based, Interactive Virtual Company

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Design Education II

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.441.1 - 15.441.15



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Paper Authors


Martin McCarthy University of Auckland

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Martin McCarthy has a Masters Degree in Engineering Management from the University of Auckland and has recently submitted a PhD thesis. He is a is a Senior Tutor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Auckland and is a Chartered Engineer by profession with many years experience in mechanical and electronics product design, manufacturing systems and fire prevention. Mr. McCarthy's current interests include research into the effective teaching of engineering design and manufacturing with emphasis on the use of multi-media tools and simulation.

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

Effective Teaching of Complex Manufacturing Topics to Undergraduate Engineers Utilizing a Novel, Broadly Based, Interactive Virtual Company


The research program which is described in this paper was designed to investigate a methodology by which improvements could be made in the delivery of complex, ill-defined domains in engineering such as manufacturing systems and engineering management. In particular, to more successfully expose students to industry typical indeterminate problems and to give students experience in their solution. It was hoped, furthermore, to increase student levels of engagement and motivation with the topics presented.

This research study applied an educational intervention based upon a comprehensive, simulation of a manufacturing enterprise to engineering students. The course chosen as a ‘test-bed’ for this educational intervention was a third-year, one-semester, course in manufacturing systems, part of a four-year undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, at the University of Auckland.

Analysis, in the form of an interpretive, qualitative study was carried out with the methods of data collection including group and semi-structured interviews, questionnaires and researcher observation. The research program did not attempt to measure ‘learning’ by means such as test and examination based quantitative assessments.

The finding was that this simulation, built on a situated learning framework and offering authentic content within a realistic context, increased levels of student engagement, motivation and willingness to accept the validity of the indeterminate problems presented to them.


The education of prospective engineers in undergraduate degree courses is carried out, in the main, by the delivery of topic materials via lectures, tutorial sessions and practical laboratory experiments. The traditional lecture is usually complimented by the use of printed lecture notes and/or a textbook. Reinforcement of the material is generally attempted by presenting students with textbook problems in which the data required to solve the problem is presented unambiguously and in its entirety. There is ongoing debate about the effectiveness, or otherwise, of this traditional didactic teaching approach and Hargrove and Dahleh 1 believe that engineering educators must develop more innovative methods for learning in order to replicate real-world problem solving. Indeed, many practitioners have supplemented their lectures and tutorials with project-based and problem-based learning activities in an attempt to provide variety and alternative learning mechanisms for students 2-6.

The problem with this procedural approach to problem solving is that it is not representative of the methodology required for many real-life engineering problems. Here the data are often

McCarthy, M. (2010, June), Effective Teaching Of Complex Manufacturing Topics To Undergraduate Engineers Utilizing A Novel, Broadly Based, Interactive Virtual Company Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16771

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