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Engagement in Practice: Academic Service in a Sophomore-level Mechanical Engineering Measurements Lab

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engagement In Practice: Integrating Community Engagement into Engineering Curricula

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Ines Basalo University of Miami

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Dr. Basalo is an Assistant Professor in Practice in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Miami. Prior to joining the University of Miami in 2014, she worked as an adjunct professor at Columbia University and the Cooper Union in New York City. She received her PhD from Columbia University in 2006, where her research focused on the mechanical and frictional properties of articular cartilage.
Dr. Basalo ‘s teaching experience includes Thermodynamics, Computer Graphics, Materials Science and laboratory courses. Since 2015 she has been actively involved in the University of Miami College of Engineering’s “Redefining Engineering Education” strategic plan on educational innovation. As part of this plan, Dr. Basalo worked with 2 other faculty members to organize inaugural Senior Design Expo in May 2017, an exposition where over 200 senior students showcased their Capstone projects to the University of Miami community, alumni and industry leaders. Starting in 2016 and through her work with the University of Miami’s Engaged Faculty Fellowship program, Dr. Basalo incorporated an academic service component into the final project for a sophomore-level Measurements Lab course.

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Jonathon Anthony Toft-Nielsen University of Miami

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Jonathon Toft-Nielsen completed his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Miami in 2012. Since graduating, he has maintained positions both in industry and academic, working at a small medical device company in South Miami (Intelligent Hearing Systems) and with an adjunct position at the University of Miami's College engineering. He strives to continually improve engineering education through his involvement in a number of courses in both the Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Departments.

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Scotney D. Evans University of Miami

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Dr. Evans is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies in the School of Education and Human Development and Acting Director of the Office of Civic and Community Engagement. He teaches and advises students in the undergraduate program in Human and Social Development (HSD), the master’s program in Community and Social Change (CSC), and the PhD program in Community Well-being (CWB). He is a community-engaged researcher working to understand and support the role of community-based organizations, networks, and coalitions in building collective power to promote community wellbeing, social change, and social justice. Dr. Evans is also the editor of the online journal Collaborations: A Journal of Community-Based Research and Practice.

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Background and motivation: A sophomore-level mechanical engineering Measurements Lab course was modified in the Fall of 2016 with the help of the university’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement to incorporate academic service into the final project. This is a 4-week, open-ended group project in which students use a sensor that works with the Arduino microcontroller and design a simple experiment to answer a question or test a hypothesis of their choice. The topic of many projects had gravitated to issues that are part of the students’ daily campus life. The projects had generated data that could be utilized by community partners on campus. Therefore, the incorporation of service learning component seemed a natural fit.

Project Design and Execution: Requirements for the final project include: (1) Project topic relates to a problem/issue on campus, (2) Students must reach out and communicate with the relevant office at the university (i.e. facilities, classroom management, etc.), and (3) Report must include recommendations based on the collected data. A two-part reflection exercise (before and after) was added to help students understand their expectations and to reflect about their experience while working on the project.

Lessons learned: Students enjoyed being active participants in the campus and being able to link what they learned in the classroom with an issue in their community. The main challenge has been communications with the relevant offices at the university, as they have not always been easy or productive.

Conclusions: The modification to the project proved to be a simple way to introduce service learning to engineering students without the need of major course redesign. Working with partners on campus makes it easier for students and faculty to manage interactions. Similar projects can be easily incorporated in other courses or engineering disciplines.

Basalo, I., & Toft-Nielsen, J. A., & Evans, S. D. (2018, June), Engagement in Practice: Academic Service in a Sophomore-level Mechanical Engineering Measurements Lab Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30379

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