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Engineering Project Development Through a Sequence of Courses

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Technical Session: The Art of Education

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Nelson Fumo University of Texas at Tyler Orcid 16x16

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Nelson Fumo is an Associate Professor at The University of Texas at Tyler. He has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Mississippi State University and a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida. He has been in academia for 30 years and has published more than 60 Journal and Conference papers. His research area is mainly related to buildings energy use with focus on whole building energy modeling, thermal energy systems design and optimization, and HVAC and solar energy applications. However, his passion for student success has recently motivated him to work on educational projects leading to the publication of two journal papers and one conference paper that support engineering education.

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For years, several groups have researched the effectiveness of project-based learning (PBL) in classrooms. Most have shown positive results, suggesting that students’ knowledge of the subject, as well as skills like teamwork and problem solving, improve more with this teaching style than with traditional lecturing. While some previous studies have investigated the effect of PBL in the engineering curriculum, the projects were completed in single classes.

In this study, a PBL approach is implemented by developing projects in a series of required courses in a Mechanical Engineering curriculum. The projects assigned in each course are related and planned to build up the knowledge and skills needed to develop a successful senior design project or capstone project. In implementing the approach, the instructor identifies the topic or problem to be proposed as a senior design project. In the first of the sequential courses, an experimental measurements laboratory course, a project is assigned regarding a sensor that could be used in the senior design project. In the second of the sequential courses, a thermal-fluids laboratory course, a project is assigned in which the students use the sensor from the previous project to develop a project that requires the application and demonstration of the use of the sensor to achieve a specific mechanical requirement. In the following sequential courses, the two senior design courses, students use the knowledge and experience gained to develop the final project which topic or problem was identified by the instructor before the approach was initially implemented in the first of the sequential courses.

To assess the impact of the approach, surveys were given to the students in each course to determine whether students felt that the projects helped them with the learning process as well as to have some direct impact in their future professional careers. Two groups/cohorts have been through this approach (of a sequence of courses) so far. The results suggest that the approach may have better results than working in a senior design project without the previous experience/knowledge gained through the approach presented in this paper. Results from these two groups/cohorts also suggest that the interest the project generates in the students is a key factor for the overall goal of the approach.

Fumo, N. (2020, June), Engineering Project Development Through a Sequence of Courses Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34555

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